This study assessed the crimes that might have been prevented had unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs; or “rape kits”) been submitted for processing.
This study tracked a sample of previously unsubmitted SAKs collected in Detroit, Michigan, to explore what crimes might have been prevented, based on mandates in the Michigan Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act (2014). The analyses revealed significant escalation in criminal activity over time by the offenders, including other sexual assaults, physical assaults, and homicides. Results also indicated most of this criminal activity was linked to a subset of prolific offenders. Finally, the analyses documented that up to 320 additional sexual assaults, plus over a thousand other violent crimes, might have been prevented with timely SAK testing. Large stockpiles of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs; or “rape kits”) have been found in police departments throughout the United States. SAKs contain biological evidence (semen, saliva, and blood) that can be analyzed for DNA to inform investigations and prosecutions. However, when SAKs are not tested, it is less likely offenders will be held accountable and they may commit additional crimes. Given the utility of SAK evidence in protecting public safety, a growing number of states are passing mandatory SAK testing laws.