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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.

Confirmed Cases: 30060

Reported Deaths: 521
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah6690129
Marion433689
Washington420858
Umatilla288141
Clackamas219961
Malheur147023
Jackson10073
Lane91314
Deschutes73912
Yamhill72114
Jefferson5038
Polk48915
Morrow4775
Lincoln47013
Linn44913
Union4352
Klamath2672
Benton2476
Hood River2400
Wasco2303
Douglas1953
Josephine1802
Columbia1481
Coos1340
Clatsop1060
Baker892
Crook601
Tillamook470
Lake290
Wallowa281
Curry260
Sherman180
Harney120
Grant100
Gilliam70
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 775037

Reported Deaths: 14804
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2572716324
Riverside563741143
San Bernardino51467839
Orange513991115
San Diego43619754
Kern31076340
Fresno27381348
Sacramento20961371
Alameda20162365
Santa Clara19891295
San Joaquin19701407
Stanislaus16150325
Contra Costa15544197
Tulare15486255
Ventura12073141
Imperial11457310
San Francisco1056991
San Mateo9332142
Monterey919765
Santa Barbara8785109
Merced8692131
Kings715877
Sonoma6827114
Marin6505111
Solano605455
Madera427058
Placer338541
San Luis Obispo331627
Yolo272153
Butte270433
Santa Cruz21088
Sutter162110
Napa158713
San Benito126010
Yuba11087
El Dorado10544
Mendocino81718
Lassen7300
Shasta66114
Glenn5473
Colusa4996
Nevada4975
Tehama4853
Humboldt4826
Lake43310
Calaveras30513
Amador28616
Tuolumne2163
Inyo18714
Mono1632
Siskiyou1590
Del Norte1351
Mariposa752
Plumas490
Modoc230
Trinity150
Sierra60
Alpine20
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