Maryland receives $2.6 million to test sex assault kits
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.”