Does North Carolina...
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 2017, legislators included a provision requiring a one-time, statewide inventory of untested rape kits in the custody of law enforcement agencies in the final state budget (see p. 330). In February 2018, the state crime laboratory reported finding 15,160 untested rape kits in law enforcement custody across North Carolina.
In 2014, The Accountability Project issued an open records request to bring the number of untested rape kits in Charlotte to light. Through this request, we uncovered a backlog of 1,019 untested rape kits in Charlotte. In 2015, we issued open records requests to Durham and Raleigh. Our efforts revealed that Durham Police Department had 2,686 rape kits in inventory as of December 2015; the agency did not know how many of these kits remained untested at the time. In 2017, we issued records requests to uncover backlogs in Greensboro, Jacksonville, and Winston-Salem. We have not yet received complete responses to our requests in Raleigh, Greensboro, Jacksonville, and Winston-Salem.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) awarded the City of Fayetteville $363,090 to test kits, investigate and prosecute cases, and re-engage survivors. Also in 2015, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office awarded the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department $557,974 to test 885 rape kits. In 2016, the BJA awarded the City of Fayetteville an additional $793,372 to sustain this work.
In 2016, the BJA awarded new grants to several agencies in North Carolina: the City of Charlotte was awarded $1,125,606 to process 300 unsubmitted rape kits, investigate and prosecute cases, and re-engage survivors; and the City of Greenville Police Department was awarded $219,496 to process 312 unsubmitted rape kits, investigate and prosecute cases, and re-engage survivors. In 2017, the BJA awarded the City of Charlotte $837,342 to process an additional 600 kits and sustain this work.
In 2018, North Carolina legislators enacted a law requiring the state crime lab to develop a rape kit tracking system that would include all newly collected kits and the 15,000 untested kits identified in the March 2018 inventory report. The law requires all medical providers, law enforcement agencies, and forensic labs to participate in the system, and it must allow victims access to their kit information. Beginning October 2019, the state lab must report to the state legislature annually on the number of tracking-enabled kits used for evidence collection, how many of these kits are connected with a reported sexual assault, and how many are submitted to a lab for testing.
In 2018, BJA awarded the North Carolina Department of Justice $2 million to test kits, investigate and prosecute cases, and re-engage survivors in the criminal justice system. BJA also awarded the City of Charlotte $452,637 to collect lawfully owed DNA from convicted offenders.
In 2019, legislators introduced a bill that, for rape kits collected after July 1, 2019, would require a medical facility or other agency collecting rape kits to notify law enforcement within 24 hours of collection and law enforcement to pick up the kit within seven days and submit it to the lab within 45 days. For kits collected before January 1, 2018, the bill would require any law enforcement agency that has such kits in its possession to establish a review team to survey every backlogged kit and after considering a list of factors, determine a testing priority. The bill would prohibit the testing of unreported sexual assault kits and kits related to “unfounded” cases after a comprehensive case review by the review team. The state crime lab would have to test kits “as soon as practicable” and would require any law enforcement agency that receives an actionable Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) hit from the lab shall report to the lab any arrest or conviction in connection with that hit. Lastly, the bill would requires the North Carolina Department of Justice, the state sexual assault coalition, and other stakeholders to create sexual assault training and response programs.
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