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October 22, 2020

Rape kit tracking program helps restore trust, transparency for sexual assault survivors

AG’s office rolls out software across the state

DES MOINES — Iowa sexual assault survivors can now track the status of their evidence kits with a new statewide reporting system.

The software program, called Track-Kit, follows the rape kits from collection at the hospital, to pick up by law enforcement, to delivery to the crime lab for analysis and back to law enforcement. This week, the Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division  completed training and rollout of the system to the final corner of the state.

“This is a major milestone in our office’s efforts to restore trust and transparency in sexual assault investigations,” Attorney General Tom Miller said. “We’ve reduced the backlog in untested kits, and going forward, we can prevent such a problem from happening ever again.”

Miller’s office had chosen STACS DNA, a sample-tracking software company, to develop the system in November 2019. The system will connect an estimated 1,500 users at medical facilities, law enforcement agencies, crime laboratories, and county attorney’s offices.

 

"While Iowa is the seventh state to empower their survivors by implementing Track-Kit, it is the first to introduce this new functionality: Sexual assault nurse examiners across the state are now scanning kits using the cameras on their phones, which will save them valuable time as most work at multiple hospitals,” said Steven Gareau, chief information officer of STACS DNA.

Iowa is the first state to use new functionality that recognizes when a mobile device is being used and allows sexual assault nurse examiners to scan kits using their cell phone cameras.

Iowa is the first state to use new functionality
that recognizes when a mobile device is being used 
and allows sexual assault nurse examiners
to scan kits using their cell phone cameras.
 

For survivors, the program provides a secure portal to enable them to track the progress of their kit through the collection and analysis process. Track-Kit also provides local sexual assault resources and contact information. The system allows survivors to contact law enforcement if they change their decision to participate in an investigation. 

“The Track-Kit system will connect more survivors to services, regardless of whether a survivor chooses to report, and will allow survivors to better advocate for themselves and their needs,” said Matty Tate-Smith, communications specialist with the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “While preventing sexual violence is always the goal, this Track-Kit system is a step in the right direction, providing survivors with additional options while increasing accountability and transparency.”

 

 

Track-Kit's survivor portal provides survivors with a timeline of their sexual assault kit, including location and status. 
 

Track-Kit also allows police and prosecutors to see the progress of testing the kits.

“In the short time the DCI Criminalistics Lab has been using Track-Kit, it has strengthened our existing partnerships with law enforcement agencies,” said Stephan Bayens, commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety. “It’s our intent to continue increasing our capacity and efficiency to assist local jurisdictions with their ability to investigate, prosecute, and provide trauma-informed victim services and advocacy.”

 

Track-Kit's law enforcement agency portal dashboard displays the number of sexual assault kits awaiting pickup, in custody and undergoing lab processing. The dashboard also highlights the number of kits received and completed in a 12-month period. 

 

The Crime Victim Assistance Division received a $796,985 grant from the National Institute of Justice, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, to develop and implement the system.

“The state provides sexual assault evidence kits to medical facilities throughout the state, and Track-Kit will help ensure accountability to taxpayers that those kits do not get lost, ignored or forgotten,” Miller said.

Five years ago, Miller’s office created the Iowa Sexual Assault Kit Initiative to identify how many untested sexual assault evidence kits existed in Iowa. The effort found 4,200. As of today, 1,629 untested kits have been to labs, and 1,535 have been tested. About 347 DNA profiles have been entered into CODIS, the FBI's Combined DNA Index System. Of those, 242 were hits, or matches to DNA in the database.

Those hits are referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for review and to determine whether the case will be re-opened for investigation.

Track-Kit is a trademark of STACS DNA.

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