Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $2,498,907)
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, Forensic Sciences Bureau (“FSB”) submits this proposal in partnership with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office (“VCDA”) and all six local law enforcement agencies (“LEAs”) in Ventura County. We are seeking funds to assist in testing an estimated 1,000 unsubmitted sexual assault kits (“SAKs”) possessed by LEAs.
If awarded this grant, we will form a multi-disciplinary working group (“MDWG”) to develop policies to inventory, prioritize, and test all unsubmitted SAKs. A supervising forensic scientist with the FSB will serve as site coordinator and chair of the MDWG. The MDWG will further consist of representatives from LEAs, prosecutors, a sexual assault nurse examiner, victim advocates and victim treatment providers. The site coordinator will monitor LEAs as they inventory unsubmitted SAKs. Using criteria adopted by the MDWG, LEAs will prioritize unsubmitted SAKs for testing.
A full-time forensic scientist devoted to this project will screen SAKs for the presence of offender DNA and either test qualifying SAKs at the FSB or outsource testing to a private lab. This same scientist will upload qualifying offender DNA profiles to the Combined DNA Index System (“CODIS”).
Within the MDWG a project implementation team (“PIT”) will investigate and prosecute cases utilizing a victim-centered approach. The PIT will implement project strategy and meet monthly to discuss progress. The PIT will consist of the site coordinator, a prosecutor, an investigator, and a victim advocate. The PIT will investigate generated CODIS hits and prosecute appropriate cases. As the backlog of unsubmitted SAKs is cleared, the PIT will investigate unsolved sexual assault cases that would benefit from additional DNA analysis or investigation.
Through this proposal, we will better serve sexual assault victims and improve law enforcement’s relationship with the community. First, we hope to bring justice to victims of unsolved sexual assault cases. Second, we will provide exceptional service to ensure victims are supported and respected throughout this process. Each victim will be offered counseling services as well as access to the Ventura County Family Justice Center and its comprehensive services for crime victims. Finally, to promote public trust between the Ventura County community and law enforcement we will share with the public in near-real time progress made in testing unsubmitted SAKs.
Ventura County now faces the significant task of ensuring that all unsubmitted SAKs are tested. This testing and the ensuing investigations and prosecutions can only feasibly occur with grant funding.