A bill advanced in the Iowa House today to determine how many untested rape kits may be languishing in storage in Iowa police departments.
Nationwide, authorities are discovering thousands of untested kits, which include bodily fluids and other evidence collected after a victim reports an assault.
With the help of a federal grant, the attorney general’s crime victim division will survey all law enforcement agencies, and then make strategic choices on how many kits should be tested now.
Robert Hamill with the attorney general’s crime victim division says testing some of the kits may result in new prosecutions.
“Once we know how many kits there are and where they are located, then a team will determine a testing strategy,” Hamill says, “taking into account why a kit might not have been tested, and whether the statute of limitations has expired.”
But Hamill says the possibility of new prosecutions is only one reason for the survey.
“The other is to increase understanding at the law enforcement level,” Hamill says.
Hamill says police departments may need training to determine when a rape kit should be submitted for testing.
“And make sure victims are engaged in the process and their needs and desires are taken into consideration as well,” Hamill says.
Some Iowa police departments have already identified hundreds of untested rape kits.
The bill will require all law enforcement agencies in the state to participate in the survey.
Officials say in voluntary surveys, as few as 40 percent of police department have complied.
In Des Moines, more than 800 untested kits have already been identified. Police in Johnson County report some 400 untested kits.