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November 12, 2019

Software system will track rape kits

‘This system will empower survivors of sexual assault,’ Miller says

DES MOINES — Iowa will launch a tracking and reporting system for sexual assault evidence kits, which will provide transparent status updates to survivors of rape as well as law enforcement and medical professionals.

The Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division has chosen STACS DNA, a sample-tracking software company, to develop the system. The company’s Track-Kit system will be rolled out to all regions of the state by July 1, 2020.

Track-Kit will follow the rape kits from the time each kit is distributed to a medical facility for use in an exam until the case receives final disposition. The system will connect more than 1,200 users at medical facilities, law enforcement agencies, crime laboratories, and county attorney’s offices.

Most important, every sexual assault survivor will be able to receive confidential information on the status and location of the kit, as well as local sexual assault resources and contact information. The system will allow survivors to contact law enforcement if they change their decision to participate in an investigation. 

“This software will increase accountability and transparency throughout the process,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. “Our office has worked hard to reduce the backlog in untested rape kits, and this system will empower survivors of sexual assault.”

Iowa will be the seventh state for which STACS DNA has implemented Track-Kit for rape kit tracking.

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 Attorney General’s Office created the Iowa Sexual Assault Kit Initiative in April 2015 to address the issue of untested rape kits by applying for a federal grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance.

In 2017, Miller’s office found that more than 4,200 untested sexual assault evidence kits were stored in police departments and sheriff’s offices across Iowa. The audit was a result of legislation passed in 2016 requiring the survey.

As of Nov. 5, Iowa’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative had shipped 1,602 kits to private labs for testing, and 1,245 had been tested. About 235 DNA profiles have been entered into CODIS, the FBI's Combined DNA Index System. Of those, 127 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.

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