Attorney General Laxalt’s Office Announces Nearly 100 Percent of Backlogged Sexual Assault Kits Sent for Testing, Resulting in at Least 17 Arrests Statewide
Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced that county forensic laboratories have submitted nearly all backlogged sexual assault kits for forensic testing, resulting in at least 17 arrests statewide. In addition to the statewide sexual assault kit testing progress, a vendor selection team, consisting of members of AG Laxalt’s Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Working Group’s Tracking Subcommittee, has entered into a contract to begin tracking sexual assault kits in Washoe and Clark Counties. The electronic database will then be made available to survivors of sexual assault looking to view the status of their case and, ultimately, expanded to Nevada’s other 15 counties.
If the software contract is approved by the Board of Examiners later this month, a portion of the $523,268 in non-taxpayer federal grant monies will be used for the purchase and implementation of Nevada’s first sexual assault kit tracking system. The software will be used to develop a sexual assault kit tracking system to physically track the progress of each sexual assault kit collected and processed through Nevada’s two forensic laboratories, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Science Division and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Tracking will include an indication of status with dates and milestones from the time that a victim reports a sexual assault, to the retrieval of the kit by law enforcement, the testing of the kit, availability of test results, Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) entry/hits, law enforcement investigation review and results, and prosecution review and results.
“When I took office, there were nearly 8,000 sexual assault kits sitting in evidence lockers throughout the State,” said Laxalt. “Today, with nearly all of these kits sent to labs for testing, I am heartened that the wheels of justice are now turning. My statewide Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Working Group continues to take proactive steps to assist our survivors. If this contract is approved by the Board of Examiners, Nevada is on its way meet the new tracking requirements imposed by my bipartisan legislation years ahead of schedule.” Laxalt added, “Implementation of this software will ensure–for the first time in Nevada’s history–that survivors of sexual assault will have a voice in the forensic testing of sexual assault kits collected by law enforcement.”
The Office of the Nevada Attorney General applied for the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence-Inventory, Tracking and Reporting (SAFE-ITR) grant through the National Institute of Justice on May 31, 2016. Between June and July, 2018, the Office of the Nevada Attorney General released a request for proposal. The Office of the Nevada Attorney General undertook extensive work to prepare the grant application and the 2018 request for proposal, including research into the feasibility of the project, developing a tracking subcommittee to determine the necessary requirements of the tracking system, and finally, in conjunction with State Purchasing, creating a vendor selection team to review and score the applications received through the Request for Proposal process. Both the tracking subcommittee and the vendor selection team are comprised of representatives of various agencies throughout the State in an effort to make certain that the perspectives from the different disciplines would inform the selection of the tracking system.
Additionally, the 2017 Nevada Legislature passed Assembly Bill 97, which in relation to this project, mandated that the attorney general, through the Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Working Group, designate a department or division of state government to establish a statewide program to track sexual assault kits and report its progress by 2021. More than three years ahead of schedule, through consultation with the Working Group, AG Laxalt designated the Nevada Department of Public Safety for this role in March 2018. Since then, the Office of the Nevada Attorney General and the Department of Public Safety have been working closely and the contract, pending Board of Examiners’ approval, reflects the partnership between both agencies and has shaped this first-of-its kind tracking system. Once the contract has been approved, steps will be taken that include the development of installation and training programs for agencies that will enter data into the system, implementation of the tracking and reporting protocol for the resulting data.
As of this month, 7,384 of the total 7,645 previously untested sexual assault kits have been sent to labs for testing. 5,947 kits have completed testing, 636 have been identified as DNA matches, and at least 17 related arrests have been made statewide. Collectively, the Working Group endeavors to eliminate the decades-in-the-making backlog, develop policies and protocols relating to the response to sexual assault, introduce legislation, and enhance Nevada’s resources for investigation, prosecution and victim services. Over the years, the Working Group has expanded to include representatives from law enforcement, prosecution, forensic laboratories, victim services, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, the domestic violence and sexual assault dual coalition, researchers, bipartisan members of the Legislature and other stakeholders. To learn more about Nevada’s sexual assault kit backlog and resources available to survivors, visit our statewide sexual assault website which is updated at the beginning of every month: endnevadasbacklog.ag.nv.gov