PHOENIX – The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will receive a $1.9 million grant from the New York County District Attorney’s Office to analyze previously untested sexual assault evidence kits. The award is one of the largest amounts granted to 32 jurisdictions in 20 states and will be used to test an estimated 2,300 rape kits in Maricopa County under an initiative launched by the County Attorney’s Office earlier this year in partnership with local law enforcement agencies.
“We are proud to receive this support from fellow prosecutors in our effort to seek justice on behalf of victims of sexual assault,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “With these funds, we hope to not only hold previous offenders accountable for their crimes, but also prevent serial rapists from causing additional harm to the community.”
In announcing the grant awards for the 2015 Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Elimination Grant Program, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. stated, “These grants represent the best opportunity in a generation to take rapists out of our communities.” The $38 million dollar program was announced in conjunction with the distribution of another $41 million dollars by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance through its Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Grant Program. “We estimate that our investment will enable the testing of more than 70,000 rape kits nationwide, many of them key pieces of evidence in unsolved crimes,” Vance said.
In cases where a suspect has not yet been identified, biological evidence from the crime scene can be analyzed and compared to offender profiles in DNA databases such as the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), to help identify the perpetrator. In cases involving known alleged assailants, evidence from sexual assault kits can also be used to identify serial offenders.
In addition to reducing the backlog of untested rape kits, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies in Maricopa County will develop investigatory and evidence handling protocols for sexual assault cases similar to existing programs that address the investigation of child abuse and domestic violence cases.
Funds for the Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Elimination Grant Program will come from monies seized from criminal enterprises by the New York County District Attorney under asset forfeiture laws.