Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt issued the following statement after the Board of Examiners unanimously approved an interlocal agreement for $2,709,288 with Clark County towards reducing Nevada’s sexual assault initiative. The agreement provides funding for personnel and supplies to increase forensic lab capacity and the outsourcing of sexual assault kit testing. In October 2017, the Board of Examiners approved $1,641,617 for a similar agreement with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.
In August of this year, the Interim Finance Committee unanimously approved AG Laxalt’s initiative to provide funding for a transition from the practice of outsourcing kits to a system that incorporates significantly more in-house testing by county forensic laboratories. With the passage of Assembly Bill 97 in the 2017 Legislative Session mandating the scheduled testing of sexual assault kits in Nevada, $3,000,000 was allocated to designated forensic laboratories in the State in order to comply with this new law. In addition to these funds, the Office of the Nevada Attorney General received approval to allocate an additional $1,350,000 in non-taxpayer settlement monies to augment this appropriation. Today’s contract, in addition to the previously approved contract with Washoe County, will disburse these funds to the Clark and Washoe forensic laboratories:
“I am extremely proud of this contract with Clark County and today’s unanimous vote to approve it. With this approval, Clark and Washoe Counties now have an additional $4.5 million of resources to build testing capacity, hire forensic staff and continue to reduce a decades-old backlog of nearly 8,000 sexual assault kits in Nevada. Along with my push for mandatory testing of kits, the contracts with Clark and Washoe Counties are key components of my office’s strategy to give a voice to survivors of sexual assault and to find a statewide solution to an important public safety issue.”
Prior to Nevada’s sexual assault kit backlog initiative, 6,473 untested sexual assault kits were housed in southern Nevada. As of December 2017, 4772 sexual assault kits have been outsourced for DNA testing, 2,388 kits have completed their testing, 565 kits have been entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which have resulted in 252 CODIS hits. Prior to this initiative, 1,111 untested sexual assault kits were housed in northern Nevada. As of December 2017, 346 sexual assault kits have been outsourced for DNA testing, 223 kits have completed their testing, 58 kits have been entered into CODIS, which have resulted in 27 CODIS hits. As of August 2017, the testing of Nevada’s backlogged kits has led to the DNA identification of serial sexual predators and resulted in a total of 11 criminal prosecutions, according to local prosecutors.
In September 2015, AG Laxalt announced that his office pledged over $3.68 million in funding to help reduce Nevada’s backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits. The secured funds were made available through a $1,983,533 Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant program and a $1,700,000 non-taxpayer Bureau of Consumer Protection settlement monies. In December 2015, Nevada’s Interim Finance Committee unanimously approved these funds to address the State’s untested sexual assault kits. In October 2016, the Office of the Attorney General received two additional grants to address the State’s backlog, including a $1,962,414 grant awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance to increase investigative and prosecutorial resources throughout the State, and an additional $523,268 in federal grant funds to enable the research and implementation of the Sexual Assault Kit tracking and record-keeping systems. In September 2017, Nevada received an additional award of $933,656 from the Bureau of Justice Assistance for the collection of lawfully owned DNA from convicted offenders to assist with sexual assault investigations and prosecutions.
AG Laxalt continues to chair a regularly convening Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Working Group to develop strategies and best practices to complete the analysis of untested sexual assault kits. The group collectively addresses policy matters associated with testing of the kits for local governments including: victim notification, statewide training, resources for victims, testing of sexual assault kits collected in connection with a crime, entering all eligible DNA profiles into CODIS, following up on investigative leads, identification of subjects, prosecuting cases associated with these kits, collecting data for academic research, and identifying statewide resources, processes and legislation to prevent future backlogs.
A sexual assault kit is used to collect physical evidence during an invasive and lengthy examination conducted at a hospital or rape crisis center following a sexual assault. Generally, these kits contain a checklist, materials and instructions, as well as a means to package any specimens collected during the examination.