OSKALOOSA – Iowa is set to roll out a new tracking and reporting system for sexual assault kits in 2020.
In a news release on Nov. 12, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced that his Crime Victim Assistance Division received a $796,985 grant to develop and implement Track-Kit, a software that will help victims, law enforcement and medical professionals track rape kits.
The Iowa Attorney General Crime Victim Assistance Division chose STACS DNA, the sample tracking software company, to develop the system. STACS DNA has assisted six other states with the implementation of Track-Kit and the press release said they are set to have the system available for use statewide July 1, 2020.
Crime Victim Assistance Division Program Administrator Robert Hamill said although other states are using the software, it has to be customized based on Iowa’s laws surrounding sexual assault, so they are still on track with that timeline.
“So this tracking system is something that’s in use in a few other states and so they have to customize it, you know, based on what you need here in Iowa, with Iowa laws and things like that,” he said. “And then we’re going to be working on the implementation of it early next year and so at this point, you know, we’re still on track to have it available on a statewide basis around that time.”
Iowa Attorney General Communications Director Lynn Hicks said the benefits of the system is two-fold.
“It’s twofold, so the survivors of sexual assault can know where in the system the rape kit is, but it also gives everybody involved in the process, whether you’re somebody who works in the medical field, or the police department, the county attorney, everybody’s involved in the state. Give us a better idea of, you know, how things are moving through the process,” Hicks said.
Track-Kit is a secure web-based service that will allow everyone involved in the collection and processing of assault cases, including the survivor, to have access to the status of there rape kit 24/7, from start to finish.
Each rape kit is marked with a barcode and once a medical facility scans or enters that code into the system, Track-Kit will notify the proper authorities to pick the kit up. Once the kit has been retrieved another update will be added to the site, with another once it’s shipped to the DNA laboratory. The DNA labs will be able to track all incoming kits and report or flag any delays if a kit is late. Updates and notifications on the kit will until the case receives final disposition.
According to the press release, Track-Kit will connect more than 1,200 users at medical facilities, law enforcement agencies, crime laboratories and county attorney’s offices. Hicks said Track-Kit will be able to hold law enforcement and labs accountable for the processing of kits in a timely manner by allowing those that have access to the system to monitor where a kit is at all times, no matter where the kit is in processing.
“Once the rape kit leaves the hospital, let’s say that the survivor goes to the hospital and gets tested, then police would go to the hospital to pick it up, take it,” he said. “And so, and then you know it would go to the crime lab, it might go to the prosecutor’s office. Wherever it is in the system, you will be able to see what’s out there so you know if there’s a police station, hypothetically if there’s a police station where a bunch of kits are stacked up people in the system will be able to monitor this and tell that, the county attorney would be able to tell it and the survivors would be able to say why is it continuing to sit at the police station.”
In 2015, the Iowa Sexual Assault Kit Initiative was formed by the Attorney General’s Office to combat the issue of untested rape kits. Iowa SAKA received two grants totaling $3 million in 2015 and 2016 to support their efforts.
After a survey done in 2016, in 2017 Miller’s office found that 4,265 rape kits had gone untested for various reasons and were stored at police departments and sheriff’s offices across Iowa, the Oskaloosa Police Department and the Mahaska County Sheriff’s Department both reported two.
As of Oct. 10, Iowa SAKI has shipped 1,602 kits to private labs for testing, 1,245 kits have been tested and 234 DNA profiles have been entered into databases. There were 127 matches to DNA in the databases.
At a later date, the Attorney General’s Office is hoping to have a press conference to further explain how Track-Kit works.