Salt Lake City

City Council

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PRESS RELEASE: Report to Council shows testing of SLC’s backlogged rape kits produced dozens of new suspects

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 6, 2019

Contact:
Dan Weist
Director of Communications
801-535-7623

SALT LAKE CITY – A five-year ongoing police effort initiated by the City Council to test all sexual assault evidence kits (rape kits) has identified more than 100 suspects from backlogged kits. Forty-two of these suspects had not previously been identified by law enforcement.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown is scheduled to brief the Council on Tuesday, May 7 during the Work Session at 2 p.m. on the latest on the backlog. The data show 301 kits from a ten-year backlog had usable DNA evidence that could be retrieved and that one out of every four of the 120 cases in which a suspect was identified from the kits is now under investigation.

Council Members appreciate the vigilance of the SLCPD to this issue.

“Bringing justice to these cases, and some peace of mind to the survivors and the community, was our primary goal in this effort,” said Council Chair Charlie Luke. “We are pleased Salt Lake City police have helped lead the way nationwide in improving the way these difficult cases are handled.”

In late 2014, the then-Council Members set a new policy direction for dealing with sexual assault cases, which included funding for testing of all cases with usable DNA evidence by the state lab and required an annual update from SLCPD on the progress. State lawmakers followed suit with a similar testing mandate for all Utah law enforcement agencies in 2017.

The Council provided funding for officer training, and to hire a forensic scientist whose job is to accelerate the processing of future kits.

The latest data also show the entire backlog of sexual assault evidence collection kits in the department’s custody from a ten-year period – 768 rape kits in total – were submitted and eventually processed at the state crime lab as of last year. Other results from the kits processed to date show 105 offender DNA matches or ‘hits’ from the National Crime Combined DNA database (CODIS). This allows an offender to be connected to multiple crimes across multiple jurisdictions and improves the chances of identifying the suspect and securing criminal charges.

Other changes supported by the Council over the 5-year period included:

  • endorsing a one-page guiding policy document with yearly reports on the kits;
  • passing a 2014 ordinance that specified all kits (Code R) be tested for DNA at a level eligible for the National Crime Combined DNA database (CODIS) entry; and
  • appropriating $30,000 in ongoing funding for the Rape Recovery Center in the 2018 annual budget. The Rape Recovery Center provides support to survivors of sexual assaults including throughout the kit collection process.

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