Justice Department Allocates $40 Million to Rape Kit Testing & Violent Crimes Database
The US Justice Department is funneling $40 million into local police departments to increase rape kit testing and fund the expansion of a national violent crimes database.
Through the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), the federal bureau will be delivering grants ranging from $250,000 to $3 million to individual departments and will pay for the complete testing of collected DNA evidence from incidents of rape. Investigations have revealed nationwide neglect to record and process these rape kits, which officers blame on a lack of both time and funding.
$2 million will be allotted to the staff training and use of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Apprehension Program (ViCAP), which officials believe could help to track and prevent repeat offenders of sexual and otherwise violent crimes.
ViCAP is a department and database designed to trace repeat criminals with patterns or trademarks to their acts of violence. It was born in the 1980s when Los Angeles Police Department officer Pierce Brooks lobbied to Congress that a database of its nature could have provided the information and communication to stop Ted Bundy – the serial killer who murdered 30 women across seven states.
However, due to a lack of program training in individual departments and the tedious nature of data entry, ViCAP has not been broadly utilized in its 30 years of operation. A ProPublica investigation conducted in 2015 found that only 1,400 of the 18,000 police agencies in the US used the program.
“That’s one of the challenges we’ve always faced is, ViCAP is a voluntary database,” Supervisory Crime Analyst at ViCAP Kevin Fitzsimmons told Forensic Magazine. “It’s not mandatory for law enforcement to submit cases into the system.”
While many departments have opted out of the time-consuming data entry, ViCAP’s limited staff hasn’t had the time to follow every potential lead discovered by the algorithmic program database to its end.
With the implementation of SAKI in 2018, the Justice Department will implement regulations and mandatory use of ViCAP while providing the necessary funds for staffing at ViCAP and training in individual departments. Funds will also go towards the comprehensive testing of evidence collected over time.
For almost a decade, police departments have been facing enormous backlog in the testing of DNA evidence collected following a rape. In the fall of 2008, there were 10,895 untested rape kits in the combined possession of the Los Angles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
Untested, this evidence of sexual violence and its related case details cannot be accessed or used by department investigations in different states. In rape cases that have no DNA evidence, a collective data platform could help officers track a repeat offender.
“Entry into ViCAP will expand the number of cases in the system and ultimately make it a more robust and useful crime fighting tool for every law enforcement agency in the country,” said the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance in an issued statement.