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Attorney General’s Office receives $2 million grant for SAFE Kit Initiative

Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced a second federal grant to support the state’s SAFE Kit Initiative Thursday.

“With this second round of federal grant funding, we will be able to continue this great work on behalf of victims across the state,” Schmitt said in a statement. “Additionally, we will work with local law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate [Combined DNA Index System (CODIS)] hits as they come in, and potentially prosecute those who are identified to get offenders out of the shadows and off the streets.”

The $2 million came from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Office must update its inventory to include untested rape kits from April 2018 through April 2020, in addition to previously tested kits that could yield different results through modern technology. 

Once the inventory is updated, the Attorney General’s Office estimated that around 900 kits will be sent off for testing. The Office said it would continue to run tests through a private lab and host shipping events to gather kits around the state. 

The grant will also fund resources to help law enforcement investigate CODIS hits as they come in and pay prosecutors for subsequent trials. 

The first grant resulted in more tests than had initially been expected, according to Schmitt. 

“Through the SAFE Kit Initiative, under the direction of Judge M. Keithley Williams, the Attorney General’s Office has made incredible progress in sending untested sexual assault kits to be tested and working through the backlog of those kits,” Schmitt said. “Under our initial grant funding, we were able to send 1,500 kits to the lab to be tested, 250 more than we initially projected.”

The first round of federal funds came in late 2018 after an audit revealed more than 5,000 untested rape kits across Missouri. The initial grant of $2.8 million covered 1,500 tests. 

The first batch of kits sent off to be tested resulted in 11 hits, the Attorney General’s Office reported last month. 

Missouri continued to process rape kits as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, contracting with a lab in Virginia, which had been deemed essential, where testing continued at a regular pace. 

Gov. Mike Parson signed off on legislation meant to streamline rape kit testing earlier this year. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Koenig, created a process for testing the kits and making it easier for victims to track the progress. The bill also mandated law enforcement agencies retain evidentiary collection kits for 30 years that have not been adjudicated. And except for in the cases of minors, unreported kits should be retained for at least five years. 

Schmitt stated his commitment to reducing the backlog multiple times since taking office last January.