Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $1,500,000)
Lead Agency: The Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office of New Mexico (DA).
SAK Issues in Jurisdiction: Since 2017, the DA's Office has established and maintained a SAKI Unit to address the backlog of SAKs in Bernalillo County in partnership with the City of Albuquerque (CABQ), Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO). The APD states that all backlog SAKs have been submitted for testing, resulting in 877 CODIS hits and the discovery of 369 serial offenders. To date, the DA’s Office has screened and closed 4,607 cases, enacted a victim-services Sexual Assault Information Phone Line (SAIL), implemented a customized SAK tracking system specific to New Mexico, and developed a victim notification policy for sexual assault response. There are currently 700 SAK backlog cases in prescreening and 159 in advanced screening.
Need for Funding: The DA’s experienced and dedicated SAKI Unit is entirely dependent on public grant funding. All current grant funding for staff expires in September 2023; funding for contracted positions expires in January of 2023. The DA needs resources to investigate and prosecute the viable cases emerging from screening, in addition to proceeding with trials delayed by COVID-19. With an average of 473 new cases of sexual assault reported to law enforcement each year in Albuquerque in combination with viable cases emerging from the SAK inventory backlog, the DA does not have the capacity to effectively conduct this work without increased capacity. Further, Native American and Black women experience disproportionately high rates of sexual assault in New Mexico. This application is requesting priority consideration under 1(A) for more effectively addressing the needs of victims of sexual assault from historically underserved BIPOC communities as well as transient or within-the-system populations by developing new partnerships with organizations serving these communities.
Timeline and Resolution: This grant will extend the DA’s multi-year partnership with the BJA’s SAKI Initiative, directly funding and leveraging non-federal support for existing SAKI Unit staff and contract personnel. To accomplish objectives, the DA will recruit, hire, and train qualified personnel to investigate and prosecute cases, and provide notification and trauma-informed services to victims. Funding will support the retention of existing personnel and the addition of two Senior Trial Attorneys and one new Investigator. The SAKI Multidisciplinary Team continues to meet on a bi-monthly basis. The SAKI Working Group for this project will continue meeting quarterly to develop reports; review number of cases, investigations, and outcomes; and provide oversight of victim contact, and prosecutions. The DA's Office estimates prosecuting at least 60 cases over the grant period.