The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), administered by BJA, provides funding through a competitive grant program to support multidisciplinary community response teams engaged in the comprehensive reform of jurisdictions’ approaches to sexual assault cases resulting from evidence found in previously
unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs).
Unsubmitted kits (those in in police custody or other evidence storage locations that have never been submitted to a crime laboratory for testing) and untested kits (those that have been submitted to crime labs but are delayed for testing (e.g., as a result of a backlog of work in the laboratory) are separate and distinct issues.
The focus of this effort is on those unsubmitted kits that have never been submitted to a crime laboratory.
The goal of SAKI is the creation of a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to these cases whenever possible through a comprehensive and victim-centered approach, as well as to build jurisdictions’ capacity to prevent high numbers of unsubmitted SAKs in the future.
This program provides jurisdictions with resources to address their unsubmitted SAK issue, including support to inventory, test, and track SAKs; create and report performance metrics; access necessary training to increase effectiveness in addressing the complex issues associated with these cases and engage in multidisciplinary policy development, implementation and coordination; and improve practices related to investigation, prosecution, and victim engagement, advocacy, and support in connection with evidence and cases resulting from the testing process.
Research supported by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) on unsubmitted SAKs at pilot sites in Detroit, Michigan and Houston, Texas has confirmed the value of testing unsubmitted sexual assault kits in solving sexual assault cases.
It has also highlighted the complexity of the issue.
Unsubmitted SAKs in the custody of law enforcement agencies can be attributed to a wide range of factors, including poor evidence tracking, outdated and ineffective investigation practices, misunderstanding of crime lab case acceptance policies, and lack of understanding among law enforcement about the value of testing kits in various types of cases.
This recent research identified the need for more trained investigative and prosecutorial resources to deal with the increased number of investigations and prosecutions resulting from testing a high number of previously unsubmitted SAKs, as well as the importance of linking victims to needed services.
Thus, the critical needs around this issue extend well beyond testing kits and increasing crime lab capacity; this program also addresses the investigative and prosecutorial aspects of sexual assault cases resulting from the testing and enhancing provision of victim services.
There is currently no reliable estimate for the number of unsubmitted kits in the custody of law enforcement agencies nationwide.
As noted in a 2011 NIJ Special Report, the problem in assessing the scope is complicated by the fact that some police departments may have deficient evidence tracking, storage, and retention policies, protocols, and facilities.
Furthermore, unsubmitted SAKs may be located in places other than police evidence rooms, including hospitals, clinics, rape crisis centers, and unofficial evidence retention locations.
In addition, many law enforcement agencies lack electronic systems to track evidence and encounter data sharing obstacles to exchanging information about DNA “hits” among police, prosecutors, and crime labs in a seamless and real-time basis.
It is important to not only support grant sites directly to meet these challenges while reducing the number of unsubmitted SAKs, but also to provide training and technical assistance (TTA) to jurisdictions grappling with this issue to achieve the long term goals of improving our national response to sexual assault.
This competitive grant announcement specifically requests applications for one national TTA provider to support and build capacity in the field and among those jurisdictions selected to receive SAKI funding and other jurisdictions facing similar conditions.
This grant announcement does not solicit applications from individual jurisdictions to fund local SAKI projects.