State of the Backlog
A recent investigation by The Plain Dealer into almost 90 police reports made in Cleveland Heights reveals that officials have incorrectly categorized and chronically misinformed the public of the number of sex crimes reported in the city.
The Plain Dealer reports that, “at least a third of reported sex offenses, including many involving children, have been classified by the police department as non-crimes with labels such as ‘miscellaneous’ or ‘departmental information.’”
The investigation began after police reported that a total of 26 sexual assaults were reported in the city over a three year period. Reporters questioned the statistics and eventually, the city produced 88 cases that had been reported in the years between 2008 and 2010. Many of the cases has been classified as unfounded, closed without changes or not labeled as rape or sexual offenses.
The Plain Dealer also found that the city under-reported the number of “forcible rapes” to the FBI as well. Though the FBI’s definition is currently more narrow than the state law’s definition of sexual assault, almost two dozen cases should have been counted. Only three were reported from 2008 to 2010.
Governor Jerry Brown has returned Assembly Bill 322 to the California State Assembly without his signature. AB 322 would have established a two-and-a-half-year pilot program to test all rape kits in ten California counties that make arrests in fewer than 12% of reported forcible rapes.
Governor Brown explained his decision to veto the bill:
“I don’t see why we would mandate counties to participate in a program they don’t want, especially when the state is cutting back on so many programs that are needed and wanted. Local officials are in the best position to determine whether to participate in such a program.”
Due to budgetary constraints, the scope of the bill had narrowed considerably since its introduction by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena. Initially, AB 322 required jurisdictions to track and test all rape kits, but the version Governor Brown ultimately reviewed required only the ten counties with the lowest sexual assault arrest rates to eliminate their backlogs.
The New Orleans Police Department (NODP) is making progress on its backlog of over 800 untested rape kits. Various local news agencies reported that the NOPD expects that all kits, some of which date back to the 1980s, will be tested by early 2012.
So far, the department has tested about 300 of the kits, which have already yielded 12 DNA matches to profiles in the national DNA databank, CODIS. The NOPD has already made two arrests and expects to make many more as a result of the testing the backlogged rape kits.
“There are going to be a lot of individuals who are going to be arrested for sexual assaults that they thought they got away with,” said New Orleans Police Commander Paul Noel.
The department is working with the Louisiana State Police and Marshall University in West Virginia, which are contributing time and resources needed to test the hundreds of kits.
Nola.com reports that the NOPD is also working through another backlog: cases involving rape kits that yield DNA matches that were never investigated. When Noel took over as commander of the sex crimes division in July 2010, there were 400 such matches that were never properly investigated because police had downgraded More >
Joyful Heart has been selected as one of 25 charities to compete for the chance to earn $1 million from Chase Community Giving’s American Giving Awards. With such an extraordinary gift, we could make a big difference for survivors of sexual assault. There is one day left to help us make a difference of $1 million.
Every year, tens of thousands of individuals report a sexual assault to the police. After an assault, a survivor undergoes an invasive exam that lasts between four and six hours to collect DNA and forensic evidence, which then goes into a “rape kit.”
The federal government estimates that over 200,000 untested kits are currently sitting untouched in storage facilities nationwide. Each untested kit represents a missed opportunity for healing and justice for a survivor. Eliminating the backlog would send a powerful message to survivors that their cases matter and that the criminal justice system has not forgotten them.
Joyful Heart would use the $1 million award to continue and enhance its efforts to end the rape kit backlog in cities across the country. We plan to create replicable victim-centered best practices, which will foster trusting and open relationships between survivors and responders; to completely overhaul endthebacklog.org, the only site More >
A corrections officer in Illinois has been charged with sexually assaulting a 10-year-old child in 1997 after a rape kit that was part of a backlog in Harvey, Illinois was finally tested. The case is another powerful and deeply troubling example that every untested rape kit represents the failure to bring justice to a survivor and to protect the public.
The victim submitted to a sexual assault evidence collection–or rape kit–exam in August of 1997 after reporting numerous instances of being sexual assaulted by her step-father, Robert Buchanan. Buchanan was questioned but never charged by the Harvey Police Department and went on to serve as a corrections officer in a local jail for over a decade.
This kit was one of 200 untested rape kits that the Cook County State’s Attorney office, the sheriff’s office and the Illinois State Police recovered in a 2007 raid, according to various news agencies, including NBC, CBS, ABC, the Chicago Tribune and The Huffington Post.
Under the 2010 Illinois Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act, the first of two state-wide laws in the country that mandate law enforcement to track and test all rape kits, the Illinois State Police (ISP) was required to collect data on all untested rape More >