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Study of state’s backlogged rape kits finds cost of crimes to victims, taxpayers exceeds $4.2 million

The statewide Sexual Assault Response Team Advisory Committee (SART-AC) has released a report that found the tangible cost to victims and taxpayers of crimes committed by offenders after sexual assault kits weren’t tested is more than $4.2 million.

Senate Bill 63 of 2016, known as the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) Act, requires the SART-AC to report on the economic costs of the crimes committed by offenders identified as part of Kentucky’s effort to clear its backlog of 3,173 previously untested SAFE kits.

The purpose of the report, which looks at the first nearly 1,000 kits tested, was to compare the cost of testing DNA evidence to the economic harm these offenders inflict when they commit additional crimes. The Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratory needs about $3.5 million to test all DNA evidence in a timely matter.

The $4.2 million represents direct economic losses suffered by crime victims, including medical care costs, lost earnings, and property loss/damage, as well as costs to Kentucky’s criminal justice system. That includes the money spent on police protection, legal and adjudication services, and corrections programs, including incarceration. Intangible or indirect losses include costs to victims like pain and suffering. The total tangible and intangible cost to victims and taxpayers is $22.6 million.

“This report clearly shows there is a tremendous economic cost to victims and taxpayers, as well as a threat to public safety, of allowing these high-risk serial criminals to commit more crimes,” Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs (KASAP) Executive Director Eileen Recktenwald said. “The SART-AC hopes the General Assembly takes a close look at this report and sees the value in fully funding the Forensic Laboratory.”

The study found that 87 offenders identified in the analysis of 974 tested kits went on to commit additional crimes after the assaults in which the kits went untested. Fifty-seven of those offenders committed crimes that fit the definition of 13 criminal categories as set forth by the National Institute of Health. NIH assigns tangible and intangible costs to crimes such as murder, sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery, and several property crimes.

The costliest crime is murder. Two of the nearly 1,000 offenders examined in the report went on to commit and be convicted of manslaughter and reckless homicide. The tangible cost of each of these crimes exceeds $1 million.

When DNA from the offender convicted of manslaughter was entered into CODIS last year, it hit to an unsolved murder in Missouri and the recently-tested SAFE kit.

Twelve sexual assaults were committed after the sexual assaults in which the kits went untested. Thirty-five aggravated assaults and five robberies were committed. These are crimes on which offenders were convicted. It is impossible to know all the crimes they committed.

“Someone willing to commit violent, intimate crimes against another person poses the highest risk to other persons and property,” Recktenwald said.

The study finds that about half the offenders who went on to commit crimes after the sexual assaults in which the SAFE kits went untested were not known suspects at the time. Some of these DNA profiles immediately would’ve matched to named offenders, potentially aiding authorities in pursuing arrest and prosecution.

In one case, an offender was convicted of sodomy 15 years before the sexual assault in which the SAFE kit went untested. He is awaiting three trials on two separate murder cases and an assault case. Had the SAFE kit been tested immediately, the DNA evidence in the kit would have immediately matched to this serial criminal. And, it’s possible that he would not have had the opportunity to commit some of the crimes for which charges are currently pending.

Additionally, the exercise has thus far identified at least 13 serial rapists, with some having committed sexual offenses prior to the assaults in which the kits went untested, and some having committed sexual offenses after.

KSP expects another 1,000 of the previously untested kits to produce DNA profiles that are eligible for upload into the crime databases. It is anticipated that the costs of crimes these perpetrators went on to commit will increase, and more serial offenders will be identified.

The report supports the need for increased funding for the KSP Forensic Laboratory. Kentucky’s forensic analysts are the lowest paid in the country. This has meant a five-year, 40 percent turnover rate of analysts who Kentucky spends between six months and two years training at a significant economic cost to taxpayers. The turnover creates significant delays in processing all forensic evidence, not just that from sexual assault cases.

The analysis was conducted by SSH Consulting, with assistance from KSP Forensic Laboratory staff.

From Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs

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