Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $2,499,662)
Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Partially Tested SAK Inventory and Testing
BJA Sexual Assault Kit Initiative O-BJA-2021-94003
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO), its 25+ law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and four public DNA testing labs within Maricopa County identified, inventoried and tested more than 4,500 unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs) from 2015 to 2020 as part of New York County District Attorney’s Office (DANY) and Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) funding opportunities. These opportunities eliminated the backlog of unsubmitted SAKs in Maricopa County and will prevent a backlog from occurring in the future. State law changes in 2017 require SAKs to be submitted within 15 days of collection and requires law enforcement agencies and laboratories to report annually on kits collected and tested.
Currently unknown is the number of SAKs where only serological screening was completed or where non-CODIS-eligible DNA methodologies were used. These are defined as partially tested SAKs and were not included in the original inventory of unsubmitted SAKs. MCAO’s attempt to identify the partially tested kits have met both challenges and successes. Due to staffing limitations, database changes, process improvements, and their own funding, Mesa, Phoenix, and Scottsdale labs have been unable to provide the number of partially tested kits in their possession. The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) DNA Scientific Services identified 1,245 partially tested SAKs from over 20 LEAs in Maricopa County. This inventory provides MCAO with the starting point for this project.
The FFY2022 SAKI proposal is a three-year project that expands MCAO’s strong foundation and builds upon the infrastructure currently in place. The first-year focus will be to certify the inventory received from DPS and test kits with CODIS-eligible-methodologies based on two priorities: minor victim at the time of the assault and unknown suspects. Currently, 37% of the DPS inventory does not have a known suspect. The number of minor victims requires manual case review. Cases identified will be reviewed and funding throughout the project will provide advanced/additional DNA testing as well as familial DNA testing. MCAO will continue its efforts to provide follow-up, investigation, victim notification, and prosecution of cases identified through previous unsubmitted SAKs and current grant funding. Over 300 cases remain requiring review from the previous unsubmitted SAK inventory.
To accomplish these goals, MCAO will continue to work collaboratively with its law enforcement and other stakeholder partners to prosecute defendants and bring closure to sexual assault victims.