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Mar 8, 2013 1:20 AM by Eric Ross

New law will force police departments to test sexual assault kits

U.S. Senator Michael Bennett's SAFER Act was signed into law Thursday.

The SAFER Act would help reduce the national backlog of rape kits by helping state and local governments conduct audits in law enforcement storage facilities and increasing available resources for crime labs to process those kits. In recent years,sexual assault kits collected were found sitting on crime lab shelves in Colorado and across the nation.

"It's disappointing to me that we're not testing these kits and that we're not using that information to put predators behind bars," House Rep. Frank McNulty said.

Evidence collected through sexual assault kits and sent off for testing is entered into a national DNA database which contains evidence of previously convicted felons. It's a system McNulty believes could greatly help a victim's case.

Advocacy centers across Colorado agree.

"That evidence will be there to support them when it comes time for court," Krisy Bootes with TESSA said.

A federal grant police departments receive each year only requires them to use 40-percent of the funding for testing sexual assault kits. As part of Sen. Michael Bennett's SAFER Act plan, departments will now be required to use 70-percent of that funding for this type of testing.

McNulty wants to take things a step further with the introduction of House Bill 1020.

If passed, this bill will require police agencies in Colorado to test 100-percent of the kits they collect. McNulty's bill has passed the House Judiciary Committee and is now being sent to the Appropriations Committee for vote.

"Any chance that we have to help support a victim and catch an offender is something we are always in support of," Bootes added.

TESSA currently provides services to domestic and sexual assault victims. You can reach one of their crisis hotline team members by calling 633.3819.

Stay with KOAA.com and News 5 for continuing coverage on McNulty's bill.

 

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