Does New York...
Inventory untested rape kits?
Test backlogged rape kits?
Test newly collected rape kits?
Grant victims rights to notice and be informed?
Track rape kits?
Appropriate funding for rape kit reform?
In 2016, New York enacted a law requiring all law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies to regularly count and report the number of untested kits in their possession to the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). In March 2017, DCJS released a preliminary audit report, finding at least 1,622 untested kits statewide. Fewer than half of all law enforcement agencies in New York responded to the audit request, so the total number of untested kits in the state remains unknown. In April 2017, DCJS released an update to the audit report, identifying 1,981 untested kits statewide, with 78% of agencies reporting. New York law does not require law enforcement to track rape kits.
In 1999, New York City had at least 17,000 untested rape kits, all of which were tested by 2003. In April 2017, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) stated that it had 42,578 kits in custody dating back to 1980. NYPD is currently identifying the testing status of these kits and will submit any untested kits for testing.
- Through our efforts, we have learned that the Albany Police Department (APD) submitted 90% of all kits received by the department to the lab for testing between 2007 and 2015. As of January 2016, the APD reported 28 untested kits in storage.
- We have also learned that the Rochester Police Department (RPD) submitted 89% of all rape kits received between 2005 and 2015 to the lab for testing. As of October 2016, RPD reported 153 untested kits, which are being incrementally submitted to a federal lab for testing.
- In January 2017, the Buffalo Police Department indicated that it “cannot provide an inventory” in response to our request.
The 2016 law states that, starting 90 days after enactment, law enforcement agencies must submit all newly collected kits to a lab within 10 days of collection and the lab must analyze these kits within 90 days of receipt. Within 13 months of enactment, law enforcement agencies must submit all previously unsubmitted kits to the lab for testing. The lab must analyze these kits within 120 days of receipt, and return their findings to the agencies within 90 days of analysis.
The 2016 law also mandates that, beginning one year after enactment, law enforcement agencies must report quarterly to DCJS regarding the number of rape kits they collect, the number they submit for processing, the number they do not submit for processing, and the length of time between kit collection and submission for processing. Additionally, all labs in the state must report quarterly to DCJS regarding the number of kits submitted for processing; the number of kits processed for DNA profiles; and the number of kits not processed for testing, including the reasons for not testing these kits. Beginning January 1, 2018, DCJS must submit an annual report to legislators aggregating this quarterly information. In the 2016-2017 budget, the state allocated $500,000 for sexual assault kit testing.
Legislators also appropriated an additional $500,000 to test rape kits in the state budget in 2017-2018.
In 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded the NYPD $2,075,142 to identify kits that have not been submitted for testing, inventory and track evidence, and improve evidence practices going forward. In the same year, the U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Justice awarded the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) $483,666 to fund an evidence management system for rape kits collected in correctional facilities under the jurisdiction of DOCCS.
In 2018, New York legislators introduced legislation directing the Department of Health to publish a sexual assault victim bill of rights. This bill of rights would include the right to: consult with a local rape crisis counselor; be offered contact information for law enforcement; be informed, upon request, of the date and location at which the kit was analyzed; be informed whether there was a DNA match in the national database; and be notified at least 90 days prior to the expiration of the 20-year storage period. Medical facilities, law enforcement, and prosecutors would be responsible for providing a copy of the bill of rights to every sexual assault survivor before beginning a medical forensic exam or an interview. These bills are awaiting the governor’s signature.
Additionally, the state's 2018 enacted budget expands evidence retention of unreported rape kits to 20 years, mandates victim notification in advance of planned kit destruction, and requires the creation of a state tracking system.
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