Indiana police uncertain why 2,500 assault kits untested

Indiana police uncertain why 2,500 assault kits untested
Posted at 3:03 PM, Dec 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-01 20:23:53-05

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — At least 2,500 untested rape kits are languishing for reasons unknown at police departments and in evidence rooms across Indiana, according to an audit released Friday by law enforcement officials.

The review by Indiana State Police was conducted over recent months at the request of lawmakers. It comes as there is growing national pressure on law enforcement agencies and elected officials to take sexual assault more seriously. Similar reviews conducted by state and local governments across the U.S. have turned up thousands of untested rape kits.

“I want to say to the victims in Indiana that Indiana is trying to do something about this,” said Sen. Michael Crider, a Greenfield Republican, who sponsored a measure last session calling for the audit by state police.

Police said Friday a total of 5,396 untested kits were reported by departments across the state. But about half of those are linked to instances where a case could move forward without the evidence, no crime was reported, or authorities determined an assault wasn’t committed.

That leaves a minimum of 2,560 kits that were not tested for reasons which remain unclear. What’s also unclear is how old some of the untested kits are, officials said.

“We knew that there was a problem ... we just didn’t know what kind of problem we were dealing with,” said Tracey Horth Krueger, CEO of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault. “Now we have the numbers and that is an incredibly important place to start.”

Some Indiana counties, including Marion County, did not provide complete information to state police. Others, including Pulaski and Warrick counties, did not provide data in time to be included in the review, though officials say that information has since been provided.

Officials vowed to process some of the kits and enter DNA evidence into a national database. But testing, which can cost upward of $1,200 per kit, will almost certainly require additional funding.

“Each one of those kits represents one lady’s life,” Crider said. “There may be reasons for some of these kits not being processed, but my perspective is that every one that is close to being appropriate for testing should be submitted to the lab.”

However, Crider said it’s unfair to blame local law enforcement. More information is needed before it can be determine why there are so many untested kits, he said.

“We don’t know that until ... prosecutors have discussions with their investigators to say, ‘Why exactly is that kit there? Was it simply overlooked or forgotten?’” Crider said.

Other cities, counties and states have reported far greater numbers of untested kits in recent years.

Houston police discovered a large cache of about 6,600 untested rape kits — some dating to the 1980s — in 2009. New Mexico had more than 5,000 untested evidence kits from rapes and other sexual assaults in 2016. And Wayne County, which includes Detroit, reported possessing 11,000 untested kits that were discovered in a storage facility in 2009.