Under the program Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence-Inventory, Tracking, and Reporting (SAFE-ITR) program, NIJ funds States, units of local government, and tribal governments to implement an evidence management program to inventory, track, and report untested and unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs).
Evidence from sexual assaults like weapons, bedding, clothing, and SAKs can be used to corroborate that a crime occurred, identify or eliminate a possible perpetrator, and ascertain whether a suspect may have been involved in other crimes. SAKs contain biological and trace evidence along with other physical evidence collected from a victim. While all evidence from sexual assaults is important, this program focuses on SAKs. SAKs may be stored in a number of places such as crime laboratories, police department evidence storage units, hospitals and clinics. Many law enforcement agencies do not have computerized systems to track the processing of a SAK.
The goal of NIJ's SAFE-ITR program is to establish and maintain accountability for participants in the criminal justice system as it relates to sexual assaults and sexual assault evidence collection and analysis. (Since multiple grant programs for testing evidence related to sexual assault are offered through the Office of Justice Programs, including the Bureau of Justice Assistance and NIJ, funding from this program will not be made available for testing evidence.) Establishing and maintaining accountability for law enforcement and laboratories will help ensure that evidence is promptly submitted to and analyzed by an accredited laboratory. Once analyzed, sexual assault evidence can provide investigative leads to the law enforcement agency, allowing the perpetrator to be apprehended before more crimes are committed.
Additional goals include:
- To gain an understanding of the number of SAKs that remain in possession of law enforcement agencies.
- To understand the movement of SAKs through the criminal justice system.