OPD received a $1.9 million federal grant two years ago to help solve these cases
December 11, 2020
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Omaha Police Department has sent roughly a third of its untested rape kits to the lab so far. However as 6 News learned Friday, the results of these tests are just the beginning to come in.
"The biggest challenge is actually trying to find the victims because a lot of them they've moved, they've changed their phone numbers they've moved on with their lives," said Capt. Anna Colon, OPD.
It all started with 1,700 untested rape kits. Over nearly two years roughly 535 kits have been sent to the Nebraska State Patrol's lab for testing.
"We don't send them all down at once that would be way overload, so we just portion them out and send down a handful down every couple weeks," said Capt. Colon. "It's going to take us a few more years."
So far OPD has received the results of about 300 tests, and of those about 176 have usable DNA. Those profiles get entered into a nationwide database looking for matches.
"We've actually been able to identify about 46 possible offenders," said Capt. Colon, noting the search for the victims is very sensitive.
"We have to be cognizant of where the victim is in their life. They may be with a partner now who has absolutely no idea of what happened to them in the past and they may not what them to know what has happened to them," said Capt. Colon.
OPD is navigating its way alongside local advocacy groups and the Douglas County Attorney's Office, meeting at least once a month.
"To look at cases that have come back with usable DNA to see if this is a case that we can actually go forward on," said Capt. Colon, noting they cannot move ahead without the victims' cooperation.
Investigators are calling on anyone who had a sexual assault kit taken prior to 2018 to come forward. "That way we know they have an interest and want to cooperate with us," said Capt. Colon. This could potentially speed up the journey towards justice
"We will let you know where your kit is specifically in the process," said Capt. Colon. "If it's something that we can bump it up to the lead we can obviously entertain that as well."
OPD has separate personnel working on these cold cases, and so far no arrests have been made. As for preventing any future backlog Capt. Colon was clear they are keeping up with the testing of new sexual assault kits.