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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: 11851

Reported Deaths: 232
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah282472
Marion183153
Washington181520
Umatilla9877
Clackamas95527
Union3692
Lincoln3615
Malheur3021
Lane2943
Deschutes2520
Yamhill1949
Jackson1780
Linn17410
Polk17312
Jefferson1630
Morrow1381
Klamath1351
Wasco1161
Benton1126
Hood River1040
Douglas600
Josephine571
Clatsop550
Coos540
Columbia480
Lake240
Crook181
Tillamook160
Wallowa140
Baker110
Curry90
Sherman40
Harney20
Gilliam10
Grant10
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 318761

Reported Deaths: 7027
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1303943795
Riverside24765537
Orange23901421
San Diego19371422
San Bernardino18912304
Fresno790687
Imperial7827135
Alameda7725148
Kern633997
San Joaquin627968
Santa Clara5983166
Tulare5678152
Sacramento533981
Stanislaus463351
Contra Costa460589
San Francisco442650
Ventura424653
San Mateo3949112
Santa Barbara393131
Marin343430
Kings289839
Monterey254018
Solano207528
Merced188412
Sonoma165014
Placer105511
San Luis Obispo9054
Madera8938
Yolo83928
Santa Cruz5683
Napa4774
Sutter3724
Butte3384
San Benito3362
El Dorado3070
Lassen2750
Shasta1876
Yuba1803
Humboldt1654
Glenn1640
Nevada1631
Colusa1130
Mendocino1130
Lake1081
Tehama1041
Calaveras670
Tuolumne640
Del Norte600
Mono501
Siskiyou410
Amador400
Inyo341
Mariposa311
Plumas170
Alpine20
Trinity20
Sierra10
Unassigned00
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