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Friday, January 16, 2015

Louisiana has 1,163 untested rape kits

Posted By on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 at 7:00 PM

click image DNA representation. - ANDY LEPPARD/FLICKR
  • ANDY LEPPARD/FLICKR
  • DNA representation.

In 2014, state Sen. J.P. Morrell authored legislation to inventory the state's untested sexual assault DNA collection kits. Statewide criminal justice agencies were to report their inventory to the Louisiana State Police crime lab by Jan. 1. That report found 1,069 untested sexual assault kits still in law enforcement custody statewide, as well as 94 untested pediatric kits at two health care facilities.

All parish sheriff's departments responded to the inventory (which was mandatory under the new law), while only 185 of 315 police departments responded. The Kenner Police Department is among dozens of noncompliant agencies that did not report their inventories. (All state university campus police departments reported no untested kits in their custody.)

New Orleans Police Department reported 200 untested kits in its custody (Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office reported that is does not have any in its custody). Alexandra Police Department reported 158 untested rape kits in its custody. In Lafayette, the police department has 60 while the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office has 34. Shreveport Police Department has 76, Hammond Police Department has 42, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office has 58, East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office has 54 and Ouchita Parish Sheriff's Office has 52.

Among health care facilities in New Orleans, the ER department at Children's Hospital reported 81 untested kits and the Audrey Hepburn Children at Risk Evaluation Center reported 13. (That brings New Orleans' total to nearly 300 untested kits in citywide possession.)

Rape kits collect sensitive DNA information that is uploaded to an FBI database that connects criminal justice agencies nationwide — possibly linking other cases and offenders.

“What this data says to us is that we have a problem that needs addressing and the fact that there are any untested pediatric kits at all is especially troubling and disturbing,” Morrell said in a statement. “We must do everything within our power to ensure that the outstanding pediatric sexual assault kits, that have never been picked up by law enforcement, are put on the record, investigated and resolved to bring justice to these young victims."

Morrell said addressing these kits will be in his 2015 legislative package.

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