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Maricopa County attorney requests federal grants to test sex assault kits

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is looking for help in clearing a reported backlog of untested sexual assault kits in some Valley police departments.

County Attorney Bill Montgomery is trying to get some federal money to help.

“The office has been partnering with law enforcement agencies over the last several months to try to identify the number of sex assault kits that should be tested that would help solve pending crimes, and we’ve proactively and in partnership have filed for grants totaling $4 million,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery said that the grants could be used in different ways.

“Some would permit testing of all of the agencies’ inventory of sex assault kits. Other grants would allow us to go through and select which sex assault kits should be prioritized for testing and then to have that analysis completed,” said Montgomery.

The county attorney expects to get an answer on his grant requests sometime this fall. The Valley’s largest police department however, responded to reports by saying that having untested sexual assault kits is not the same as having a backlog.

Phoenix Police confirmed that there are more than 1,700 untested kits from over the last 15 years, but Public Information Officer Trent Crump said that is not by mistake.

Crump said in the majority of sexual assault cases, the victim and suspect know each other, which mean testing biological material from rape kits is not the best way to investigate those cases.

“(It is) typically an issue of consent if you will, meaning there’s no question as to whether or not there was intercourse, it was whether or not it was consensual,” he said.

Crump said nationwide roughly two-thirds of sexual assault involve people that are acquainted with each other, and that is no different in Phoenix.

Often investigators have to use other techniques for determining whether there was non-consensual sex between a victim and a suspect, Crump said.

He said the department follows strict protocols when determining whether to test a sexual assault kit or not. He added that kits are retained for 15 years by state law.

KTAR’s Mark Remillard contributed to this report.