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State Attorney's Office gets $2.3 million to help sexual assault victims

Grants to expand DNA profiles for rape kits, add prosecutors, advocates

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Victim's of sexual assault could get justice sooner because the State Attorney's Office in the Fourth Judicial Circuit is getting federal grants totaling $2.3 million.

Part of the grant money will be used to pay for a team of investigators, prosecutors and advocates for the next three years, according to officials. 

The rest will used to expand DNA databases by collecting DNA from convicted sex offenders and people who are arrested. The goal is create more DNA profiles in the system to  help match those taken from rape kits and catch criminals faster.

“With this critical funding, we will continue to seek justice for victims of sexual assaults," State Attorney Melissa Nelson said. 

The State Attorney’s Office will use a $1.5 million grant awarded by the DOJ to continue its dedicated investigative and prosecutorial efforts on these cases. The award will continue to fund a multidisciplinary team consisting of assistant state attorneys, investigators, victim advocates and other community partners for the next three years. 

The office will use an $880,933 grant to expand DNA databases through the collection of lawfully owed DNA from convicted offenders and arrestees. This grant will allow the State Attorney’s Office and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to work collaboratively on adding DNA profiles that could lead to more arrests and prosecutions of violent offenders, while providing justice for victims. 

The State Attorney’s Office and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office have partnered for the past
three years on the initiative. 

“This pursuit of justice will continue, aided by this funding, and we aggressively seek accountability for the  perpetrators of these crimes,  while  attempting to restore peace to the lives of survivors,” said Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams. 

In total, more than 1,700 backlogged kits have been submitted for testing, with the final batch submitted in spring 2017. Those kits have resulted in more than 370 DNA "hits" to date and led to additional investigations. In the past year, tested kits have resulted in two successful prosecutions.