State police creating rape kit testing unit

NORTHVILLE (AP) -- A new state police unit is being created to help speed along the processing of sexual assault kits from the Detroit area and southeast Michigan.

The unit will be located at the Northville Forensic Science Laboratory northwest of Detroit and include a team of DNA experts. It is expected to be operational by early summer.

"We need to ensure we are doing all we can to be quick and comprehensive in our response to these crimes," state police director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue said in a recent release.

Nationwide, an estimated 180,000 to 400,000 rape kits remain untested, despite DNA technology that can swiftly link rapists to crimes.

Between 9,000 and 11,300 rape kits stored by Detroit police were collected two years ago by the state police.

The kits are being documented and tested in batches as part of a National Institute for Justice project. Initially, about 400 were chosen. Earlier this year, another batch of about 1,000 was identified for testing. The Wayne County prosecutor's office and a Michigan State University researcher also are involved in the project.

The kits -- 10-inch-long boxes containing swabs, evidence envelopes and information sheets detailing the examination, complications and a list of 24-hour rape crisis centers -- can cost $1,200 to $1,500 to test.

"Evidence items contained in these kits are collected directly from traumatized victims in a medical environment," said John Collins, state police forensic science director. "It's not good enough for our laboratories to be experts at testing rape kits. We need to fully understand and appreciate every nuance and detail that can possibly bring offenders to justice.

"There are some emerging technologies and methods that will accelerate the production of this unit in the coming months and years," Collins said.

The Michigan State Police crime lab currently processes sexual assault kits for all police agencies in Michigan.

Published: Thu, May 3, 2012


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