HUNTSVILLE, TX -- Researchers at Sam Houston State University and the University of Texas at Austin will team up with representatives from the criminal justice system in Houston to establish protocols to determine when sexual assault kits need to be tested by crime labs.
"This is a problem-solving project that seeks to determine why so many kits are not being tested," said Dr. William Wells, who is leading the research project at Sam Houston State University. "The goal is to create appropriate solutions that can be implemented and to determine if there are ways that forensic evidence in these kits can be used effectively."
The project is the first phase of a study funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which will investigate the issue and develop strategies including the notification of victims that may help to solve the problem of untested evidence in sexual assaults that currently exist in many cities around the country. There are currently about 4,000 untested rape kits in the Houston Police Department's Property Room. A second study funded by NIJ will focus on Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan.
"These research projects will enable us to better understand what happens to sexual assault evidence, why it might not be analyzed, and what we need to do to fix the problem," said NIJ Director John Laub. "When sexual assault kits go untested, it can result in significant and unnecessary delays in justice for sexual assault victims."
The project in Houston will include the Houston Police Department Crime Lab, the HPD Juvenile Sex Crimes Unit, the HPD Special Crimes Division, the Harris County District Attorney's Office, the Houston Area Women's Center, the University of Texas at Austin and SHSU.
"Everybody is working cooperatively and collaboratively to figure out the problem and to find ways to correct it," said Dr. Wells. "We are all working toward a common goal: improving our nation's responses to sexual assault."
|Contact: Beth Kuhles|
Sam Houston State University