PHOENIX – The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and the Phoenix Police Department will hold a joint press conference to announce recent sex assault kit grant awards on Tuesday, October 4th at 9:00 a.m. in the 8th Floor Conference room of 301 West Jefferson Street in Phoenix.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) through its Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Grant Program, awarded the Phoenix Police Department a $1.5 million grant and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office a $1.2 million grant for their ongoing initiatives to test sexual assault kits.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will use the funding for the analysis of previously untested sexual assault evidence kits, as well as investigation and prosecution efforts of cases involving the kits. “This additional funding will help to not only hold offenders accountable for their crimes, but also prevent offenders from causing additional harm to the community,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “This continued investment shows our commitment to seeking justice for the victims of these types of violent crimes.”
The Phoenix Police Department plans to use the grant funding to implement several initiatives involving training, investigations, and evidence processing. "This funding will support our new ‘test all’ policy, allowing for every sex crime evidence kit to be tested," said Phoenix Police Assistant Chief Mary Roberts. “We believe our investigations involving sexual assault kits should involve a multi-disciplinary team of professionals who allow for a victim centered approach.”
Phoenix Vice Mayor Kate Gallego will also be speaking about the recent grants awarded. “This grant will allow the Phoenix Police Department to move forward aggressively on our new “test all” procedures,” Gallego said. “Our Police Department worked closely with victim advocate groups on our new policy, making it a model of partnership, responsiveness and openness in public safety.”
A previous grant from the New York County District Attorney’s Office provided $1.9 million in 2015 to MCAO and has allowed for the testing of almost 600 kits. Those tests have already led to two indictments. This additional BJA grant funding will allow MCAO to continue an initiative started last year in partnership with local law enforcement agencies to test an estimated 2,300 rape kits in Maricopa County.
The testing of sexual assault kits can directly lead to criminal investigations and prosecutions by identifying previously unknown suspects or corroborating the identity of individuals previously suspected in these offenses. In cases where a suspect has not yet been identified, biological evidence from a sexual assault kit 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.