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Local agencies unite to address backlog of sexual assault kits, community response

(image: MGN) Currently, the Mobile Police Department has 1,793 un-submitted "rape kits", dating back to 1979, which is proportionately about the same number of kits as other cities across the nation.

The Mobile Police Department, Mobile County District Attorney’s Office and Lifelines Counseling Services/The Rape Crisis Center have created “The Promise Initiative” for sexual assault survivors. The initiative addresses the handling of sexual assault kits and aims to establish a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to sexual assault cases.

The Promise Initiative will help link victims to advocates and needed services. It will also help implement best practices and comprehensive reform to bring perpetrators to justice as well as increase safety in the community by preventing future sexual assaults.

The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Grant provides funding to the Mobile Police Department to inventory, process and test un-submitted sexual assault kits. Currently, the Mobile Police Department has 1,793 un-submitted kits, dating back to 1979, which is proportionately about the same number of kits as other cities across the nation.

The reasons behind the backlog can be attributed to many factors including poor evidence tracking, outdated and ineffective investigation practices, lack of resources and personnel, misunderstanding of crime lab case acceptance policies, and lack of understanding among law enforcement personnel about the value of testing sexual assault kits.

The Mobile Police Department promises institutional and community change, and understands that resolving these issues is critical to providing justice for victims and preventing such backlog in the future.

Police officers are now using a different paradigm for interviews and are moving toward a more victim-centered, trauma-informed interviewing and investigation process.

For more information on The Promise Initiative and for those who want to find out if they have an untested sexual assault kit at the Mobile Police Department, call 251-431-5100 ext. 226.

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