Mary­land re­ceives $2.6 mil­lion to test sex as­sault kits

The Calvert Recorder - - News -

The Gover­nor’s Of­fice of Crime Con­trol and Preven­tion, the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral, the Mary­land State Po­lice and the Mary­land Coali­tion Against Sex­ual As­sault re­cently an­nounced the re­ceipt of a $2.6 mil­lion grant from the De­part­ment of Jus­tice’s Sex­ual As­sault Kit Ini­tia­tive to as­sist vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault.

The grant, which will be ad­min­is­tered by Of­fice of Crime Con­trol and Preven­tion and project led by the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, will be used for test­ing of untested or un­sub­mit­ted sex­ual as­sault ev­i­dence kits at law en­force­ment agen­cies across the state; the de­vel­op­ment of a statewide track­ing sys­tem for th­ese kits; and the hir­ing of spe­cial­ized vic­tim ad­vo­cates to en­gage in vic­tim-cen­tered no­ti­fi­ca­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and sup­port ac­tiv­i­ties, a press re­lease states.

In 2016, the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly passed Se­nate Bill 498, re­quir­ing law en­force­ment agen­cies in the state to au­dit their untested kits and re­port the re­sults to the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral. The au­dit re­vealed ap­prox­i­mately 3,700 un- tested kits statewide, ac­cord­ing to the re­lease.

Based on the find­ings of the au­dit, in 2017, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian Frosh (D) re­leased a re­port on untested sex­ual as­sault kits that in­cluded cer­tain rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing the cre­ation of the Sex­ual As­sault Ev­i­dence Kit Pol­icy and Fund­ing Com­mit­tee, chaired by the at­tor­ney gen­eral. The com­mit­tee was tasked with de­vel­op­ing uni­form stan­dards on untested sex­ual as­sault kit avail­abil­ity, col­lect­ing, test­ing and stor­age.

“This grant was a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort to pro- tect and as­sist vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault,” Gover­nor’s Of­fice of Crime Con­trol and Preven­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor V. Glenn Fue­ston Jr. said in the re­lease. “We hope this grant will pro­vide res­o­lu­tion for vic­tims and lead to the ar­rest of the peo­ple who hurt them.”

Qual­i­fy­ing DNA data will be up­loaded into Mary­land’s DNA data­base, co­or­di­nated by the Mary­land State Po­lice Foren­sic Sciences Di­vi­sion. This data­base will also pro­vide ac­cess and com­par­i­son to sam­ples in the na­tional Com­bined DNA In­dex Sys­tem.

While the Mary­land State Po­lice Foren­sic Sciences Di­vi­sion crime lab­o­ra­tory does not have a back­log of sex­ual as­sault kits pend­ing anal­y­sis, this fund­ing helps Mary­land be­gin the process of an­a­lyz­ing sex­ual as­sault kits that had not been sub­mit­ted for test­ing for rea­sons that may in­clude pros­e­cu­tors or in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­min­ing that test­ing was not needed for a spe­cific case, the re­lease states. As a re­sult of the ef­fec­tive­ness of Mary­land’s DNA data­base, ef­forts are now un­der­way to po­ten­tially ex­tract DNA ev­i­dence from untested kits and en­sure the ev­i­dence is used to ex­pand in­ves­tiga­tive abil­i­ties in cases of sex­ual as­sault.

“This grant will en­able law en­force­ment to ex­pand the use of DNA tech­nol­ogy to iden­tify and ap­pre­hend those re­spon­si­ble for sex­ual as­saults,” Mary­land State Po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Col. Wil­liam Pal­lozzi said in the re­lease. “Our pri­or­ity is to en­sure Mary­land’s DNA data­base is be­ing used as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble in our on­go­ing ef­forts to re­duce vi­o­lent crime and pro­tect our cit­i­zens.”

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