Robbins mayor says police evidence lab revamped

August 20, 2013 (ROBBINS, Ill.)

The department was under fire in February when the Cook County sheriff said 51 sexual assault kits were found in an evidence room and never submitted for analysis. Some dated back to 1986. All were sent to the Illinois State Police.

At the time, Sheriff Tom Dart said there was no acceptable reason why the kits weren't sent for testing.

On Tuesday, Mayor Tyrone Ward held a news conference to say the police department's evidence lab has a new organizational plan. Robbins Police Chief Melvin Davis says he has specific employees assigned to the classified area.

Ward thanked the sheriff for his help to "clean up the problems of the past."

"It's very relevant to separate the past from our future voyage," Ward said.

Also discovered were about 150 tested kits that police never followed up on, some dating back to the 1970s.

"We are making sure that all safeguards are put in place to prevent this type of incident from ever happening again," Davis said.

Rosa Pickett is among those waiting for justice... She was allegedly raped along a street in 1977, and it wasn't until 36 years later that she learned from officials that her rape kit had been lost.

"The officers at that time, back in those days, just did not have the heart. They didn't have the heart. They didn't care," she said.

Though her rape kit remains missing, Pickett supports the new administration.

"I am so glad that they are taking the initiative to help resolve these issues," she said.

Ward was sworn in last May and since then, he's hired a new police chief, who in turn replaced the entire command staff. The number of arrests for all crimes has increased from just four in May to ten in June and 41 last month. Today, police compared photos of the evidence room under the old command and how it looks now after it was reorganized.

"All the rape kits have been processed. Results are still pending," Davis said.

The results from one kit is raising eyebrows. It involves the alleged attack of a 14-year-old girl near a creek in 1991. DNA evidence from the kit points to an ex-con currently free after serving 14 years for armed robbery. Though the statute of limitations for rape has passed, authorities are exploring legal options.

"We are hopeful that we will bring justice to these victims in whatever way we can," said Cara Smith, Cook Co. Sheriff's Dept.

In the past, there have been questions about whether Robbins' economic woes have made it difficult to attract and keep top-quality officers. On Tuesday, the mayor and chief declined to discuss the salary issue but said they were confident their officers would put duty before money.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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