In 2011, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine implemented an initiative requesting that law enforcement agencies submit the untested kits at their departments to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) for testing free of charge. An eleven-member multidisciplinary commission that the Attorney General’s Office convened to address the backlog had recommended this new policy. To handle the influx of rape kits at the state crime lab, Attorney General DeWine announced a new unit with four forensic scientists dedicated to testing backlogged kits.
In March 2014, Senator Capri Cafaro introduced legislation that requires law enforcement to review all unsolved records and reports of specified crimes, and to submit the corresponding SAFE kit for DNA analysis within one year of the law's effective date. DNA analysis facilities will prioritize testing based on statute of limitation concerns, and enter results into CODIS. For new investigations, investigating agencies are required to submit SAFE kits for DNA analysis within 30 days of determining an offender may have committed a specific sex crime, and DNA facilities would enter any results from those kits into CODIS as well. The bill passed both the Ohio House and Senate by June 2014, and was signed into law by the Governor in December 2014.
As of June 2015, a total of 179 law enforcement agencies have submitted 9,906 rape kits for testing as part of the statewide SAK Testing Initiative, and forensic scientists at BCI have completed testing on 7,513 of those kits. The DNA testing has led to 2,802 hits in CODIS, the national DNA database, and all investigative lead information associated with those hits has been returned to the investigating agencies.
The Cleveland Police Department, which is located in Cuyahoga County, submitted the most kits—nearly 4,000—followed by Akron, Cincinnati and Toledo. Statewide, approximately 19 percent of the DNA matches are linked to serial rapists. In July 2014 alone, BCI identified more than 130 DNA matches to potential serial rapists.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office dedicated several investigators to assist with locating survivors whose kits were now being tested and to work with Cleveland sex crimes detectives and BCI agents to investigate leads. Victim advocates helped survivors receiving news about their rape kits to navigate both the criminal justice and healing processes.
On November 21, 2014, Attorney General DeWine announced an additional $450,000 in funding to expedite Cuyahoga County's efforts to investigate cases resulting from clearing its backlog. This grant will allow the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force to add six investigators. County Council is also likely to approve $1.2 million for the Task Force to hire eight additional investigators and a victim advocate. With these new resources, the projected timeline for investigations and indictments is expected to decrease from four years to a year and a half.
Learn more about Ohio's reforms and read about its efforts in the media here.