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Phoenix law enforcement receives millions in grants to clear rape kit backlog

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — Two Phoenix-area law enforcement agencies have been given millions of dollars to help clear a backlog of rape kits.

The Justice Department has awarded $1.2 million to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and $1.5 million to the Phoenix Police Department as part of its Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.

County Attorney Bill Montgomery said his office will not only clear the backlog, but also investigate and prosecute cases related to any evidence obtained from the kits.

“We have a commitment from community leaders, law enforcement agencies, prosecution agencies and from municipal leadership,” Montgomery said. “We want to join together and work in partnership for protecting and strengthening our community and taking care of victims.”

Assistant Police Chief Mary Roberts said Phoenix will use its funding to test more rape kits. The department has a backlog of about 500 kits.

The department will also use the money to implement evidence and investigation protocols for all sex-crime evidence.

“[The money will] support a program manager, a specialized investigation team, we have a cold case team assigned to the sex-crimes unit,” she said. “Every single sex crime evidence kit that comes into our possession will be tested.”

She also said DNA evidence isn’t needed in all individual sexual assault cases However, the evidence can still help prove a pattern if a certain perpetrator’s involved.

The grant money will lead to more hiring at crime labs around the Valley. Phoenix Vice Mayor Kate Gallego said that’s a good thing for people looking for work.

“We have positions open in our crime labs,” she said at a press conference. “We need you to help us create a more safe and more fair community.”

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