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How a new tool can help states track sexual assault evidence
Many states have enacted or are considering laws requiring that sexual assault evidence be closely monitored from collection to lab to court
The following is paid content sponsored by QueTel.
By PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff
More than half of all alleged rapists have at least one prior conviction, according to RAINN.org. It’s estimated that thousands of these criminals remain unidentified due to the large number of outstanding sexual assault kits across the country.
Part of the problem is that states vary widely when it comes to standards for testing and tracking sexual assault evidence kits, and some don’t keep track at all. As awareness of the problem grows, so do efforts to ensure that all sexual assault evidence is processed quickly.
End the Backlog, a survivors’ advocacy group, is currently working with lawmakers in 15 states to pass measures that include tracking all kits and setting deadlines for submitting and processing DNA evidence. Such statutes already have been enacted in 14 states, and more are in progress across the country.
Law enforcement agencies and state legislatures will need protocols and software tools to successfully meet these evidence tracking requirements.
Automated evidence tracking reduces the labor burden
Kit TraQ from QueTel is a cost-effective tool that can help law enforcement agencies meet these requirements and ensure that sexual assault evidence is processed in a timely manner. The system uses barcode scanning technology to monitor these evidence kits from the medical facility through the forensic lab to the courts and everywhere in between.
Tracking by hand with paper logs or spreadsheets is cumbersome, costly and error-prone, and busy nurses and lab techs don’t have time to log evidence on top of collecting and analyzing it.
Kit TraQ requires only seconds to scan or type in a barcode. Rather than entering status updates on paper or in another manual system, each individual in the chain of custody can simply scan the barcode, reducing the burden of reporting by nurses, detectives, property custodians and other agency staff, and Kit TraQ will take care of the reporting.
QueTel has been providing evidence tracking software to law enforcement agencies for three decades. By building on its existing evidence management platform, the company is able to develop and provide Kit TraQ at a lower cost. The software is ready to install, and QueTel offers a free trial upon request.
“We have nearly 30 years of experience in tracking items using barcode technology for law enforcement evidence management,” said Jim Cleaveland, founder and president of QueTel. “Putting it on the cloud and making it easier to use than ordering from Amazon reduces the training time to almost nothing, and we’ve eased the burden by minimizing the amount of effort required.”
Increase transparency, accountability by tracking sexual assault kits
Kit TraQ automates the evidence management process and provides for improved transparency and accountability in three ways:
1. Tracking evidence: Kit TraQ accounts for all sexual assault kits, whether active or unprocessed, and tracks them through every stage in the criminal justice process, from evidence collection by specialized nurses to disposition after trial.
QueTel provides a set of pre-printed barcode labels to be applied to empty kits before use. When a kit is opened by a nurse for evidence collection, the barcode is scanned or the alphanumeric code manually entered. Once entered into the system, the kit can be tracked through the entire process by scanning or entering the code at each point of custody.
2. Survivor access: Kit TraQ enables survivors to check their case status anonymously by entering a case number online, much like tracking a package delivery.
Survivors are provided by the medical or police facility with a unique login ID and password so they can check the status of their cases through secure online access. The system enables the state to provide a list of support groups along with the kit status information.
Prosecutors also can identify the survivor by the case number and look up the status of a case. Survivors and prosecutors are the only ones with this privilege in Kit TraQ.
3. Public monitoring: Kit TraQ generates reports that allow state agencies and lawmakers to monitor evidence processing to be sure that kits receive timely testing.
Legislators can request reports, anonymized to protect survivors’ privacy, that provide average processing times for different crime labs and agencies. The state can then publish those statistics for public transparency. Kit TraQ fields and screens can be configured to a state’s needs and are easily customizable.
Efficient and effective tracking of sexual assault evidence kits can help identify and convict repeat offenders and boost public confidence in law enforcement.