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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“ I’m proud to share that this morning the Springfield Police Department was host to area agencies from around the region in the latest effort of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s SAFE Kit Initiative, which aims to eliminate the state’s backlog of untested sexual assault kits. Representatives from more than two dozen local agencies dropped off a total of 100 kits at SPD Headquarters. The kits collected will be sent to BODE Laboratory for testing as part of a federal SAKI grant.
This effort comes as a result of a project created by the Attorney General’s SAFE Kit Initiative working group. Last year Attorney General Eric Schmitt visited law enforcement agencies and hospitals around the state and observed the policies and practices in place for the collection and storage of sexual assault kits. After follow-up visits and observation by the chair of the working group, Judge M. Keithley Williams, SPD was selected as the agency to pilot the process.
During the pilot project, and after a review of the backlogged kits held by SPD, 30 of the 231 backlogged kits dating from 1989 - 2015 were selected and sent to BODE for testing in Dec. 2019. We are anxiously awaiting the test results for the kits submitted during the pilot process, to determine the next steps in the related investigations.
We are hopeful the project will continue and expand in order to allow the remaining backlogged kits held by SPD to be submitted for testing. These efforts mark the most recent positive steps undertaken by SPD as we continue to work diligently to identify perpetrators of sexual assaults and hopefully bring long-awaited closure to their victims.”
- Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams
Jan 23, 2020, 11:07 AM by AG Schmitt
Today, the first untested sexual assault kits inventoried through the SAFE Kits Initiative will be collected at the Springfield Police Department from neighboring law enforcement agencies and sent to private labs to be tested.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Today, the first untested sexual assault kits inventoried through the SAFE Kits Initiative will be collected at the Springfield Police Department from neighboring law enforcement agencies and sent to private labs to be tested.
“When I was sworn in as Attorney General, tackling this backlog of untested sexual assault kits was one of my top priorities, and remains a key focus of this office heading into the new year,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Thanks to Judge Williams and her team’s hard work, our exhaustive inventory identified the number of untested sexual assault kits in the state of Missouri, an important step in tackling this issue. Now, with the help of Chief Williams, the Springfield Police Department, and our incredible law enforcement partners across the state, we’re taking a crucial step forward in our fight to bring justice for victims.”
"Springfield Police Department has been involved in this effort from the beginning. We are pleased to partner with the Attorney General to be able to send backlogged sexual assault kits from throughout Southwest Missouri to a lab for testing," said Springfield Police Department Chief Williams.
To preserve the chain of custody and since the Attorney General’s Office cannot handle the kits themselves, representatives from remote departments such as Branson, Hollister, Monett, Nixa and Republic, as well as Sheriff’s departments from a variety of counties, will physically bring over one hundred untested sexual assault kits identified in the inventory to the Springfield Police Department, who will then ship those collected kits off to a private lab to be tested.
In all, untested sexual assault kits that were inventoried by the SAFE Kit initiative will be gathered from 12 neighboring Sheriff’s departments and 20 neighboring police departments.
Major metropolitan departments like the Springfield Police Department will serve as host agencies as they have more capacity and inventory space than smaller departments, making them a prime department to gather these untested sexual assault kits from local departments to then send out to the lab.
Moving forward, the same process will be used in other areas: a larger department will serve as a host agency to gather kits from smaller, neighboring departments and Sheriff’s offices to then send out to the lab to be tested.
The SAFE Kits Initiative is using a private lab to ensure that kits are tested expeditiously and to not overwhelm the Missouri State Highway Patrol crime lab with a large influx of kits.
The SAFE Kits Initiative, funded by a grant administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, was launched by Attorney General Schmitt in January of 2019 to inventory all untested sexual assault kits identified in a previous audit, create an electronic tracking system, and send those identified kits to a lab for forensic testing and potentially eventual prosecution.
The results of the inventory were announced in November of 2019 and compiled into a comprehensive report, which stated that there were over 6,800 untested sexual assault kits sitting in a backlog across the state of Missouri (NOTE: 90% of the backlogged kits were untested, NOT 90% of all sexual assault kits in the state of Missouri were or are untested).
The Attorney General’s Office is also currently working on developing an electronic tracking system.
Media Contact: PAO Jasmine Bailey417-864-1786[email protected]
Release authorized by Chief Paul Williams