Department of Health releases 2017 report on untested sexual assault kits and backlogged evidence

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HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa.– Today, Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy released the 2017 Report on Untested Sexual Assault Kits and Backlogged Evidence outlining the progress in reducing the number of untested sexual assault kits, as well as those waiting for testing.

“This report is an excellent example of how the Wolf Administration is creating a Government That Works to provide justice for thousands of people across the commonwealth,” Secretary Murphy said. “By working with the Pennsylvania State Police and eliminating data silos, we’re able to speed up the process of getting backlogged kits tested and guaranteeing the rights of sexual assault victims.”
The report includes additional 2015 sexual assault kit data due to interagency cooperation with the Pennsylvania State Police. In September 2016, the Department of Health and Pennsylvania State Police signed a memorandum of understanding to improve the way the agencies work together in establishing laboratory standards and data collection procedures regarding sexual assault testing and evidence. Due to the memorandum, the state police now assist in gathering backlogged data from laboratories and local law enforcement agencies.
“Evidence collected in sexual assault kits is a key investigative tool that helps law enforcement pursue justice for victims,” said Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker. “Communication and cooperation between state agencies and law enforcement at all levels helps to ensure that sexual assault and other serious crimes are investigated thoroughly.”
The Department of Health’s annual report is intended to provide a comprehensive view of the number of untested sexual assault kits in the commonwealth and to ensure that those kits are tested in a timely fashion.
The Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act designates the Department of Health as the responsible agency, with concurrence of Pennsylvania State Police and in consultation with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), for approving certain laboratories to receive sexual assault evidence for testing and analysis. Additionally, the act mandates the Department of Health to annually collect data on backlogged sexual assault evidence from laboratories and local law enforcement.
In addition to annual reports, the Department of Health has already taken several proactive steps to deal with the backlog, including:
  • Working with the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), and the state police to communicate the new reporting requirements under Act 27 to local police departments, as well as reaching out to them individually;
  • Contacting police departments to collect an inventory of backlogged kits and kits in their possession and made the necessary reporting forms available on its website, as well as published a notice of the reporting requirement in the Pennsylvania Bulletin;
  • Conducting free training sessions across Pennsylvania open to all state and local law enforcement agencies regarding Act 27; and
  • Collaborating with PCAR to determine whether additional standards for laboratories are required.
For more information about the Department of Health and its programs, visit our website at www.health.pa.gov or follow on Facebook and Twitter.
SOURCE: PA DOH