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City considers adding 2 detectives for rape kit cold cases

City will seek to use federal grant money to pay for detectives

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council plans to vote on a measure that would use federal grant money allocated to the State Attorney’s Office to fund the creation of two cold-case detective positions who would work exclusively on sexual assault kit backlogs.

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance announced the release of the FY2016 National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant solicitation on March 1, 2016.

The initiative provides funding through a grant program to support multidisciplinary community response teams trying to reform jurisdictions’ approaches to sexual assault cases from evidence found in previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits.

Florida Senate Bill 636 was signed into law last April, requiring sexual assault kits to be submitted within 30 days to a crime lab and tested within 120 days.

The bill is designed to help rape victims with their cases and identify suspects, but there are issues. According to officials, rape cases aren’t always black and white and there are many reasons why they sometimes don’t test DNA evidence collected in rape cases.

DNA testing of forensic evidence contained in the kits could help law enforcement agencies catch rapists and prevent future rapes, but Florida law did not require kits to be submitted for testing. That decision has rested with local law enforcement agencies.

A strict new timetable was implemented last June after a survey found more than 9,400 rape kits that should have been tested still in police evidence lockers.

A Federal Department of Law Enforcement report recommended that the state spends at least $8 million over a three-year period to test all the pending rape kits.