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Analysis of Untested Sexual Assault Kits in New Orleans

NCJ Number
242312
Date Published
Author(s)
Mark S. Nelson
Agencies
NIJ
Annotation
This project report details the issue of untested and uninvestigated sexual assault kits (SAKs) in possession of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), specific challenges exacerbated by Hurricane Katrina, and presents the results of a combined-resources effort to address the situation.
Abstract
The identification of over 800 untested and uninvestigated sexual assault kits (SAKs) in possession of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) was revealed during a 2010 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation. A subsequent effort begun by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in 2011 leveraged Federal, State, and local resources, as well as academic partnerships, to help NOPD address the issue. The NIJ project tested a total of 1,008 SAKs resulting in the identification of 256 male DNA profiles. These profiles were uploaded into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and yielded 139 CODIS matches (evidence collected from the crime scene matched that collected from another crime scene or from an existing CODIS DNA profile). Between January 1, 2011, and September 1, 2012, 40 sex crime cases directly resulting from this project were investigated and closed, with 6 cases having been adjudicated to date. To assist with the tracking of CODIS matches and reduce the possibility of further delays, NIJ arranged for the NOPD, the District Attorney’s Office in New Orleans, and the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory to receive specialized software known as CHOP (CODIS Hit Outcome Project). CHOP effectively networked these organizations so that each stakeholder could access and update relevant information, and share that information within and across agencies. The project achieved success through a shared commitment by stakeholders from the Federal, State, local, city, and university arenas; it increased the NOPD’s DNA unit’s efficiency by fostering new processes and procedures; and produced viable recommendations: 1) expand CHOP to more jurisdictions nationwide as a benefit to the criminal justice system and to decrease victimization through faster identification and apprehension of repeat offenders and 2) implement and install evidence tracking systems that allow law enforcement agencies to communicate directly with their crime lab’s Laboratory Information Management System to eliminate situations where untested SAKs “fall between the cracks.” The success of this project has prompted new initiatives to increase law enforcement effectiveness throughout the State and has resulted in similar efforts in other jurisdictions.
Date Created: May 29, 2013