RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – RTI International will examine crime laboratories and law enforcement agencies and their policies and interagency dynamics to identify models of coordination that show promise to reduce the sexual assault kit backlog.
“Untested sexual assault kits in law enforcement custody and backlogged sexual assault kits in crime laboratories result in delays in the justice system and, in some instances, the denial of justice for survivors of sexual assault,” said Kevin Strom, Ph.D. a senior research criminologist at RTI and the project’s principal investigator. “The processing of sexual assault evidence involves a number of entities within medical, forensic, legal, and law enforcement sectors, and their ability to effectively coordinate has major implications.”
The project is part of a two-year, $500,000 study funded by the National Institute of Justice. As part of the project, the researchers will survey more than 200 crime laboratories that collect biological forensic evidence in the United States and nearly 700 of the largest law enforcement agencies that submit forensic evidence to these laboratories.
The researchers will use economic production models to examine efficiency across crimes labs and law enforcement agencies within jurisdictions to examine how forensic evidence flows across agencies in a jurisdiction.
“There is limited understanding of what constitutes efficient sexual assault processing, and whether organizational policies, evidence management systems, and cross-agency communication can increase forensic processing efficiency, thereby preventing the accrual of uncategorized, untested, and backlogged sexual assault kits,” said Mike Anastario, Ph.D. , a research sociologist at RTI and the project’s co-investigator.
Based on findings from the survey, the research team will also conduct in-depth case studies of six jurisdictions to better understand the dynamic effects that law enforcement agency policies, other systems and communication have on laboratories receiving sexual assault kits and vice versa.
“Ultimately, our goal is that the results and recommendations from the project will help crime labs and law enforcement agencies identify and implement best practices that could result in improving the response to sexual assault in the United States,” Strom said.