JOPLIN, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Joplin Police Department Chief Sloan Rowland announced today that the second batch of untested sexual assault kits identified in the SAFE Kits Initiative inventory were sent to a private lab on Friday. The untested sexual assault kits were gathered at Joplin Police Department as a “host agency” from more remote departments to preserve the chain of custody and streamline the process.
“Working with our law enforcement partners across the state to gather these untested sexual assault kits and get them to the lab to be tested as efficiently as possible is crucial to the success of the SAFE Kits Initiative and will potentially help in bringing offenders to justice in the future. Chief Rowland and the Joplin Police Department have been a tremendous help in gathering these kits from neighboring departments and sending them to the lab for testing,” said Attorney General Schmitt.
“The Joplin Police Department has partnered with the Attorney General’s Office in an effort to reduce the number of untested sexual assault kits held by area departments. Our department has volunteered to serve as a hub for the collection and testing of our, and other agencies kits. We have worked closely with the AG’s office for the past several months in accomplishing this,” said Joplin Police Department Chief Rowland.
Similar to what was done when kits were gathered by the Springfield Police Department two weeks ago and sent to the private lab, over 50 kits were brought to the Joplin Police Department from remote departments such as Neosho Police Department, Carthage Police Department, Jasper County Sheriff, Newton County Sheriff, McDonald County Sheriff, and more. In total, 11 departments and Sheriffs delivered kits.
As we continue to move forward with the SAFE Kits Initiative, major metropolitan departments will serve as host agencies as they have more capacity and inventory space than smaller departments, making them a prime department to gather these untested sexual assault kits from local departments to then send out to the lab. The next anticipated host agencies will be the St. Joseph Police Department and the Columbia Police Department.
The SAFE Kits Initiative is using a private lab to ensure that kits are tested expeditiously and to not overwhelm the Missouri State Highway Patrol crime lab with a large influx of kits.
The SAFE Kits Initiative, funded by a grant administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, was launched by Attorney General Schmitt in January of 2019 to inventory all untested sexual assault kits in the backlog, create an electronic tracking system, and send those identified kits to a lab for forensic testing and potentially eventual prosecution.
The results of the inventory were announced in November of 2019 and compiled into a comprehensive report, which stated that there were over 6,800 untested sexual assault kits sitting in a backlog across the state of Missouri (NOTE: 90% of the backlogged kits were untested, NOT 90% of all sexual assault kits in the state of Missouri were or are untested).
The Attorney General’s Office is also currently working on developing an electronic tracking system.