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New data show at least 3,400 untested rape kits in Iowa

There are at least 3,400 untested rape kits in storage around Iowa, according to new data, and preliminary details indicate law enforcement agencies don't have standardized rules for handling such evidence.

June 19, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - There are at least 3,400 untested rape kits in storage around Iowa, according to new data, and preliminary details indicate law enforcement agencies don't have standardized rules for handling such evidence.

The Crime Victim Assistance Division within the Iowa attorney general's office is in the midst of counting untested sexual abuse evidence collection kits by surveying all Iowa law enforcement agencies. The project is the first of its kind in Iowa amid a national spotlight on untested rape kits.

Division director Janelle Melohn said more than 70 percent of the state's nearly 400 agencies have responded to an electronic survey sent earlier this year. The incoming data show a range of procedures in place, though she declined to provide specifics because data collecting is still underway.

"It's just a lack of consistency around the state on how law enforcement organizations are storing these kits, managing these kits … there's definitely a lack of clarity and a need for education," she said.

A typical kit is smaller than a shoebox and contains swabs and specimens gathered during the examination of a sexual abuse victim. When tested, the evidence can potentially link to a known suspect or identify an unknown assailant. It can also connect a suspect to other crimes or exonerate an innocent person.

A typical kit is smaller than a shoebox and contains swabs and specimens gathered during the examination of a sexual abuse victim. When tested, the evidence can potentially link to a known suspect or identify an unknown assailant. It can also connect a suspect to other crimes or exonerate an innocent person.

Melohn said there are many reasons a kit may not go through forensic laboratory testing and end up in storage. Often, a victim will decide not to proceed with an investigation.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jun/19/new-data-show-at-least-3400-untested-rape-kits-in-/

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