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Secretary of State Evaluates Oregon's Processing of Backlogged 'Rape Kits'

After a backlog of over 4,900 unprocessed kits in 2015, the Oregon Secretary of State's office just released an extensive audit of law enforcement efforts to catch up.

Posted: May 2, 2018 12:13 PM
Updated: May 2, 2018 12:19 PM

SALEM, Ore. — Commonly known as 'rape kits,' Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) Kits store vital evidence gathered by medical professionals in cases of possible sexual assault. As recently as 2015, the number of unprocessed, untested SAFE Kits numbered in the thousands—at least 4,900 throughout Oregon.

On Wednesday, Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson announced that Oregon State Police (OSP), who are responsible for the processing of SAFE Kits, are making great strides in getting those kits tested and reducing the backlog, based on the results of a recent audit.

CLICK HERE for our recent story on the backlog and how law enforcement has worked to reduce it.

The Secretary's report contains some interesting background on the backlog. Although OSP processes SAFE Kits, the majority of unprocessed kits actually resided with local law enforcement agencies, who were not required to have those kits sent in to OSP and tested.

After the backlog was identified in 2015, Senate Bill 1571 made its way through the Oregon state legislature, and was signed into law in 2016.

Also known as Melissa's Law, SB 1571 was named after a 14-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in Portland in 2001, after law enforcement failed to process several SAFE Kits in previous cases that may have caught the perpetrator before the crime was committed.

Melissa's Law instituted a number of requirements on law enforcement to encourage the timely testing of SAFE Kits, including funding for kits to be sent and tested at private labs when necessary. Any non-anonymous kits (meaning the victim identified themselves and reported a crime) must be tested.

Secretary Richardson's report found that the backlog of unprocessed kits was down to 1,100 in 2017, compared to the 4,900 found in 2015. However, the audit primarily rates OSP by other benchmarks—essentially, to evaluate whether OSP is in compliance with Melissa's Law and other prevailing practices. By those standards, OSP is up to par, according to Richardson's office.

“Victims of sexual assault deserve to have justice as soon as possible,” said Secretary Richardson. “I’m thankful to the Oregon State Police Forensic Services Division for their strong efforts to remove the SAFE Kit backlog by the end of 2018."

The one note of discord to be found in Richardson's report relates to OSP's status as the central forensic testing site for law enforcement throughout Oregon. Because OSP has shifted their focus on processing forensic evidence to emphasize SAFE kits, testing of DNA collected by local law enforcement in cases of property crime has ground to a standstill.

"Local law enforcement agencies are eager for OSP to resume accepting DNA evidence for property crimes," said Richardson's report.

 The full report summarizing the Secretary of State's audit may be found below.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 68503

Reported Deaths: 867
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah15561230
Washington940198
Marion8650135
Clackamas568777
Umatilla421248
Lane405040
Jackson357925
Malheur234942
Deschutes207414
Yamhill161516
Linn131019
Polk114015
Douglas88217
Jefferson79811
Union7463
Klamath7454
Benton7447
Morrow6357
Lincoln60014
Wasco49719
Josephine4824
Columbia4573
Coos4061
Hood River3751
Clatsop3450
Baker2703
Crook2086
Grant1301
Curry1202
Tillamook1150
Lake1131
Harney901
Wallowa703
Sherman230
Gilliam210
Wheeler30
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1171802

Reported Deaths: 19025
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles3832757580
San Bernardino884691129
Riverside850771434
San Diego75307988
Orange731521559
Kern39990448
Fresno37349477
Sacramento35739566
Santa Clara32454476
Alameda28378502
San Joaquin25675502
Contra Costa23381260
Stanislaus21145422
Tulare20550308
Ventura18914175
Imperial15725356
San Francisco15053160
Monterey14695116
San Mateo13707170
Sonoma11846157
Merced11537179
Santa Barbara11205135
Kings1044087
Solano1003681
Marin7628129
Placer622468
Madera604785
San Luis Obispo595635
Shasta460147
Yolo456174
Santa Cruz420228
Butte385359
Sutter314415
Napa294517
El Dorado21544
Yuba198110
San Benito181316
Lassen17733
Tehama158725
Mendocino148522
Nevada11839
Tuolumne9088
Glenn8918
Lake88619
Humboldt8199
Colusa6946
Siskiyou6242
Mono5243
Amador48416
Calaveras47522
Del Norte3131
Inyo29016
Plumas2050
Trinity1390
Mariposa1262
Modoc1220
Alpine470
Sierra190
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