COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt was in Columbia on Wednesday to talk about an initiative meant to address the backlog of rape kits awaiting testing.
"We want to make sure that we honor the courage of the victims who have come forward to make sure these kits are ultimately tested so we're working as hard as we can on that," Schmitt said.
Former Attorney General Josh Hawley began an audit of backlogged rape kits in 2017. Schmitt launched the Missouri SAFE Kits Initiative in February.
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office started the initiative in an effort to clear the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in Missouri by gathering an inventory, creating a tracking system and eventually testing certain kits.
"We've got the funds to test 1,250 kits of the number that we found but we're not going to stop there we want to continue to secure additional funds to make sure that we can test all the kits that can be tested," Schmitt said.
The exhaustive inventory returned nearly 7,000 sexual assault kits from across the state. About 6,000 of those remain untested, Schmitt said.
Jennifer Carter Dochler, a public policy director for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said, "I think there's true dedication to have an inventory to know where the kits are, move forward in making sure they are tested and have recommendations so that this doesn't happen again."
In the A.O.G.'s Safe Kit Initiative Inventory Report, the office proposed an evidence tracking system to be considered by all state holders so they don't have to manually track the kits, tracking the kit as a whole, introducing a centralized location where the kits can be held safe and lastly consider a re-design of the box.
Elizabeth Herrera, the executive director of True North said, "The most important thing here is the pursuit of justice for the victims of sexual assault crimes and that we're doing something about it."
As of December 2018, the sexual assault kit initiative has inventoried over 64,000 safe kits in 54 jurisdictions in 35 states. more than 47,000 safe kits have been tested resulting in over 7,000 database hits.