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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: 348766

Reported Deaths: 4161
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah54797689
Washington37988313
Marion36055444
Clackamas29094304
Lane26966298
Jackson22632300
Deschutes19577123
Umatilla14241144
Linn12380120
Douglas11795240
Josephine9233195
Yamhill8517110
Klamath7709110
Polk715380
Malheur551574
Benton529130
Coos489691
Columbia371343
Jefferson361450
Union313146
Lincoln310638
Wasco281540
Crook274745
Clatsop239529
Baker198028
Tillamook193328
Hood River188337
Morrow181623
Curry178122
Harney108424
Grant97612
Lake89011
Wallowa67012
Gilliam1484
Sherman1463
Wheeler991
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4810682

Reported Deaths: 70604
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles147569426398
Riverside3693444990
San Diego3641044163
San Bernardino3563155566
Orange3227415518
Sacramento1576212279
Santa Clara1445181890
Kern1441461605
Fresno1441232051
Alameda1198871374
San Joaquin1018071708
Ventura1005241164
Contra Costa99234982
Stanislaus851571315
Tulare78945951
San Francisco54031645
San Mateo53828622
Monterey50696582
Solano45761334
Santa Barbara44836521
Merced41781577
Sonoma40711402
Placer38902415
Imperial35642764
Kings32369314
San Luis Obispo29653329
Madera23518281
Butte23364260
Shasta23360334
Santa Cruz20861218
Yolo20147247
Marin17581243
El Dorado16960149
Sutter13775169
Napa12808100
Yuba994282
Tehama9298104
Humboldt9102108
Nevada903990
Mendocino752786
Lassen746346
San Benito737372
Tuolumne673993
Lake6506104
Amador537264
Siskiyou442742
Glenn430330
Calaveras381780
Del Norte356141
Colusa301718
Inyo196739
Mono16445
Plumas15756
Mariposa127315
Trinity86011
Modoc6698
Unassigned1860
Sierra1760
Alpine1020
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