Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police defended their investigations into sexual assaults Wednesday, a day after a study by an advocacy group for victims showed the department had not tested more than 1,000 rape kits, which could help identify suspects in open cases.
The Joyful Heart Foundation’s Charlotte data was part of the organization’s Accountability Project, which found a backlog of more than 9,000 untested kits in large police departments across the United States.
Ilse Knecht, the foundation’s senior adviser for policy and advocacy, said it launched the campaign because backlogs like Charlotte’s area common.
“We felt that the only way that we could start to do (effect change) was to get cities and jurisdictions across the country to go into their evidence rooms, count their kits and make those numbers public,” Knecht said.
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Backlogged municipalities with “the political will and the commitment to testing kits” have taken hundreds of serial rapists off the streets, she said.
The kits are used to collect blood, semen, body fluid, fibers, hair and clothing from a victim of sexual assault. The collection process can take hours and be traumatic for victims, who usually must recount the alleged crime at the same time. But the DNA evidence can help identify an assailant and prosecute a suspect in court.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police on Wednesday said the number of victims adversely affected by untested rape kits is much lower than the foundation’s investigation showed. Of the approximately 1,000 untested kits, 650 are related to cases that are already closed, said CMPD Capt. Cecil Brisbon. Some of the remaining kits have been submitted and the remainder are “being reviewed to determine the need for analysis.”
“The number itself sounds horrible and I understand that, but it’s really important to understand that we take all incidents of criminal activity seriously, especially with violent crime and a sexual assault case is a serious case,” Brisbon said. “We do our due diligence to make sure we give every victim the satisfaction they deserve.”