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Minnesota Sexual Assault Kit Research Project

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Past Project Period End Date
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $657,908)

The proposed project will employ a variety of methods to evaluate the activities undertaken by law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim advocates that are part of a project funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance as part of the Omaha, Nebraska’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. As proposed, this study will evaluate the processes and outcomes related to victim notifications and continued victim support and sexual assault kit (SAK) testing, investigations, and prosecutions for approximately 2,000 previously untested kits. In addition, the study will calculate the cost of testing SAKs versus the cost of investigating and prosecuting new crimes perpetrated by offenders during the period of time a kit associated with their DNA profile was left untested. Moreover, the applicant will assess the impact of using the Violent Crime Apprehension Program (ViCAP) in conjunction with, or independent of, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) in identifying investigatory leads associated with SAKs. The research team proposes to (1) focus heavily on empirically testing “best practices” regarding victim notification by employing a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test the effects of different victim notification methods and (2) examine victim experiences regarding participation, empowerment, and satisfaction associated with testing SAKs. Project activities include the creation of a database containing characteristics of cases associated with untested kits (i.e., victim, case, suspect, and neighborhood factors) and the causes for not testing them. A comparison will be conducted of approximately 500 kits that were previously tested with a random sample of 500 untested kits to determine factors that may impact decisions to test, or not test, SAKs. In addition, a survey of police officers, prosecutors, and advocates will be administered at two time intervals (January 2020 and December 2021) about perceptions of the Omaha systems’ (a) capacity to respond to sexual assault, and (b) interagency collaboration between sexual assault responders. Survey data will be supplemented by in-depth interviews with police investigators to identify additional gaps in response (e.g., training needs, policy improvements). Also, the applicant will randomize the way victims are notified of SAK testing results that are associated with a CODIS or ViCAP hit under three conditions: (1) phone notification from an advocate; (2) in-person notification by an advocate at a neutral location; and (3) in-person notification by an advocate and law enforcement officer at a neutral location). Data on outcomes of victim notification will be collected using surveys of victims, officers, and advocates. Finally, the applicant will estimate the costs and benefits associated with testing, investigating, and prosecuting untested SAKs using criminal history data for each offender involved in a CODIS or ViCAP hit and the National Institutes of Health crime cost estimates.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 27, 2019