NEW ORLEANS – The parish district attorney’s office is one of 20 jurisdictions to receive a grant from The Joyful Heart Foundation, an advocacy organization that works toward national rape kit reforms.
The grant, totaling $1 million, is to help with the backlog of untested rape kits in the parish.
Grants from the foundation total more than $34 million and go to numerous jurisdictions, including Austin, New York City and Philadelphia.
While some law enforcement agencies test every sexual assault kit booked into evidence, others test as few as two in 10 due to inconsistent laws and policies between jurisdictions, and the lack of national protocols for handling the evidence.
“These focused resources are helping law enforcement get serial criminals off of the street, easing the burden on personnel, facilitating community engagement and relationship building, and making communities safer,” said Sarah Haacke Byrd, A Joyful Heart’s Managing Director. The advocacy group is based out of New York.
Across the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies, the count of untested kits likely reaches into the hundreds of thousands. Testing costs approximately $1,000 per kit, but under the Manhattan District Attorney’s grant initiative and agreements with two private labs, costs should average $675 per kit.
A July 2015 joint WWLTV/USA Today investigation identified more than 70,000 untested sexual assault kits in the custody of more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies in communities large and small, pointing to a national accumulation of untested kits that likely reaches well into the hundreds of thousands across the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies.