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Criminal Justice Update

Sexual assault kit testing initiative reaches goal

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s initiative to test the rape kits that had been lingering in police evidence lockers for decades has wrapped up, with 13,931 tested for DNA in a little more than five years.

On Feb. 23, the Attorney General announced that forensic scientists with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) on Jan. 31 finished analyzing the thousands of rape kits submitted by local law enforcement for DNA testing as part of Attorney General DeWine’s Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Testing Initiative.

A total of 8,648 DNA profiles have been uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) as a result of the testing, and 5,024 matches to offender DNA and/or DNA collected from the scenes of other crimes have occurred. Charges have been filed against hundreds of attackers.

“While DNA testing is a very important piece of evidence for identifying and convicting offenders — it is only one piece of the puzzle,” DeWine said at one of the two news conferences held to announce the milestone.
“The follow-up work done by local law enforcement on the CODIS hits has been essential in these cases,” he said. “In many instances, we are able to go back to law enforcement with a name of a potential attacker, but it is up to investigators to gather supporting evidence before making an arrest.”
In Cuyahoga County, for example, where 40 agencies submitted rape kits for the initiative, there have been more than 700 indictments.
A total of 294 law enforcement agencies in 75 counties turned in kits. The Cleveland Division of Police submitted the most kits, 4,418, followed by the Toledo Police Department, 1,802, Akron, 1,432, Columbus, 482, Springfield, 367, and Cincinnati, 338.
Overall, many of the kits tested were decades old, with some dating to the 1970s. The majority of kits, however, were from crimes that occurred between 1993 and 2014.

“The testing of these nearly 14,000 kits has changed the culture surrounding rape investigations in Ohio,” DeWine said. “The culture today is that every single rape kit needs to be tested. Because of the spotlight on these cases and the results that have followed, the value of testing these kits has been accepted. When agencies submit kits for testing without delay, suspects can be identified faster, future attacks can be prevented, and other crimes can be solved.”

Becky Perkins, communications director at the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, thanked the Attorney General for taking action against the rape kit backlog.
“Ohio is the leader nationally in the effort to not only address the rape kit backlog, but also to better address and prevent the crime of rape itself,” she said. “But as we celebrate these accomplishments, we must remember that our work doesn’t end here nor does the suffering of survivors who have experienced the traumatic crime of sexual assault.”

After learning about the accumulation of untested rape kits in 2011, DeWine formed a commission to study the problem. The group determined that any kit associated with a crime should be submitted to a crime laboratory for DNA testing in an effort to identify offenders and ensure that DNA relevant to investigations is included in the CODIS database.

DeWine requested that local law enforcement voluntarily submit any unanalyzed kits to BCI for forensic testing at no cost to them.

In the end, the initiative helped influence several new laws in Ohio. Law enforcement agencies are now required to submit all rape kits collected in association with a crime to a laboratory for testing within 30 days. The statute of limitations for prosecuting rape was also expanded from 20 to 25 years, with five additional years for prosecuting a case where DNA identifies a suspect after 25 years.

For more information on the initiative, visit

SAK Timeline of Key Events: How Ohio became a leader in addressing the issue of untested rape kits:

2011: Attorney General DeWine convenes group to examine problem of untested rape kits in Ohio

December 2011: DeWine asks law enforcement to voluntarily submit kits to BCI for DNA testing

October 2012: After hiring and training new forensic scientist, DNA testing begins

March 2013: First criminal indictments associated with SAK testing initiative filed in Cuyahoga County

March 2015: Senate Bill 316 requires all rape kits connected to a crime be submitted to a crime lab for testing

July 2015: House Bill 6 extends statute of limitations in rape cases to 25 years

January 2018: Final kit tested as part of the SAK testing initiative

Statewide Results: By the Numbers

13,931: The number of sexual assault kits submitted by 294 Ohio law enforcement agencies under Ohio Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Testing Initiative

8,648: The number of DNA profiles uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database

5,024: Total number of CODIS hits from uploaded DNA profiles

10: Number of forensic scientist positions created for the initiative

2,600: The average number of SAK testing initiative kits tested per year

300: The number of serial offenders linked by DNA to three or more cases

1,127: The number of cases involving those 300 serial offenders