April has brought another update from Ohio as the state continues its progress on testing backlogged rape kits.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced this month that rape kit testing has yielded 1,104 DNA profiles that have hit—or matched—to offenders in the state and national DNA databank.
Attorney General DeWine’s office is spearheading an initiative to address the backlog of untested rape kits across the state. His office is urging all law enforcement agencies to submit all untested sexual assault evidence kits—or rape kits—in their storage facilities to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) for testing, at no cost to the departments submitting the kits.
Since the initiative began in 2011, 125 agencies have submitted 6,437 kits, about half of which have been tested, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Rachel Dissell.
Rape kit testing is one of the most powerful tools we have to solve and prevent crime. By analyzing the samples collected from a victim’s body in the aftermath of the crime, including possible DNA evidence from the perpetrator, forensic scientists may be able to develop a DNA profile that is unique to the perpetrator. That DNA profile can then be compared to a database with thousands of other DNA profiles from known offenders and from unsolved crime scenes. This process can both identify an unknown perpetrator and link a suspect to other crimes.
In addition to testing kits, there is even more work being done to address the backlog in Ohio.
State Senator Capri Cafaro introduced legislation this month that would essentially codify the policy currently being implemented by Attorney General DeWine’s office. It would require—instead of urge—law enforcement agencies to submit any untested rape kits connected with open investigations to crime labs for testing. It would also require that moving forward, departments send any newly collected rape kit connected with an investigation to a crime lab for testing within 20 days.
Meanwhile, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has formed the DNA Cold Case Task Force. It brings together the Prosecutor’s Office and its investigators, Sheriff’s Department officers and BCI agents to take steps to ensure that all leads generated from testing are investigated to the fullest extent possible.
Cuyahoga County is home to Cleveland, where police have already sent more than 2,700 kits for testing and plan to submit a total of more than 4,000 kits connected to cases dating back to 1993. The Task Force’s investigations have already resulted in more than 90 criminal indictments in cases involving nearly 150 victims, according to the Plain Dealer. Almost one-third of the cases involve suspected serial rapists.
“Rapists are often repeat, violent offenders. With an estimated 1,600 investigations anticipated from the rape kit testing [emphasis added], we have an ambitious undertaking, but one that all parties are committed to seeing through to resolution for the victims. Taking these one-man crime waves off our streets will make our communities instantly safer, while prosecuting these offenders brings justice to victims who have waited years for someone to act on their behalf.”
We will continue to keep you updated on the progress in Ohio. For more information, including recent news and more on the legislation introduced in the state, click here.
- By Lendon Ebbels, April 22, 2014
ENDTHEBACKLOG is a program of the Joyful Heart Foundation to shine a light on the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the United States. Our goal is to end this injustice by conducting groundbreaking research identifying the extent of the nation’s backlog and best practices for eliminating it, expanding the national dialogue on rape kit testing through increased public awareness, engaging communities and government agencies and officials and advocating for comprehensive rape kit reform legislation and policies at the local, state and federal levels. We urge you to learn more about the backlog, where it exists and why it matters. We invite you to take action and support efforts to test rape kits. Help us send the message that we must take rape seriously.