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Schmitt touts efforts with rape kit backlog, keeping Missouri cities safe

   

Attorney General Eric Schmitt said his office is still attempting to figure out the total number of untested rape kits in the Missouri system.

While detailing out the three-phase SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence) Kit Initiative, which focuses on eliminating the rape kit backlog in Missouri, Schmitt said getting a full inventory of the untested kits must be completed before any action can take place. 

“We’re going to do three things,” Schmitt said during a Sunday appearance on This Week In Missouri Politics. “One is get an inventory of the backlog and all the untested kits across the state. That’s really important to understand the gravity of the issue and all to know where they’re all at.”

The audit, which took place in 2018 under former Attorney General Josh Hawley, estimated about 5,242 kits were untested in the state. However, according to Schmitt, those kits may just be scraping the barrel.

“It’s probably more than 5,000 because that’s a really conservative number,” Schmitt said. “This is with only 40 percent of the entities that could respond responding.” 

Schmitt said his office has received responses from more than 85 percent of hospitals across the state and about half of the law enforcement agencies, but more progress needs to be made before the exact number is solidified.

After this first phase, the initiative will then seek to establish a tracking system, which law enforcement and victims can use to know where their specific cases are in the testing process. The third and last phase, Schmitt said, would be the actual testing and prosecutions. 

“We want to honor the courage of the victims who have come forward by making sure they know there’s not going to be a sexual assault kit sitting on a shelf never being tested,” Schmitt said. “It’s a priority for this office, this initiative. We launched right away and are serious about it.”

A multidisciplinary group headed by Schmitt meets quarterly to supplement the initiative. 

Safer Streets Initiative

The panel this week consisted of Rep. Donna Baringer, Joe Patterson of the St. Louis County Police Association, SLPDA Executive Director Jeff Roorda, and Missouri House Republican Campaign Committee Executive Director Casey Wheat.

The panel went in-depth on the reasons behind the attorney general’s Safer Streets Initiative, which looks to cut down the amount of homicides, carjackings, and gun crimes in the state’s cities. Specifically, Baringer stated the rise in carjackings and violence may be related to technology.

“In the old days … they would just come down our streets at night, break into the cars, and steal the car,” Baringer said. “We now have key fobs. In order for them to take our cars now, they have to get our key fob. In order to get our key fob, they have to come after us.”

Patterson agreed with her, saying law enforcement can at times be behind the technological curve.

Watch Sunday’s episode of This Week in Missouri Politics below for more on the rape kit backlog, combating the opioid crisis, and lowering city crime rates.