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Criminal Justice Council introduces new rules for sexual assault kit testing

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Delaware Public Media
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Delaware law enforcement will follow stricter guidelines for collecting, documenting and processing sexual assault kits.

The state’s Criminal Justice Council introduced new policies this month guiding the handling of kits to prevent future backlogs.

The new policies come on the heels of the state auditor’s announcement this spring that Delaware cleared the entirety of its sexual assault kit backlog. That backlog consisted of more than 1,200 kits left untested in law enforcement evidence lockers across the state, some dating back decades.

Efforts to test those kits began in 2015 and resulted in 9 arrests and 24 cleared cases.

According to the national Sexual Assault Kit Initiative – the federal program that funded Delaware’s effort to clear its backlog – those backlogs were the result of poor evidence tracking, a lack of resources and a lack of urgency within some law enforcement agencies.

The new policy changes are intended to remedy some of those long-standing challenges, including establishing new protocols for documenting test kits and requiring law enforcement to turn kits over to Delaware’s Division of Forensic Sciences within 30 days.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.