CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — More money is likely coming to Charlotte to help the ongoing processing of sexual assault kits. On Monday, Oct. 23, City Council members are expected to say “yes” to two federal grants totaling nearly $3 million.
In the late 2000s, it came to light that thousands of rape kits submitted by victims had not been tested in Detroit. The discovery resulted in a ripple effect exposing substantial backlogs in other cities, including Charlotte.
The North Carolina sexual assault kit tracking dashboard shows Mecklenburg County is mostly caught up on testing the kits that have been submitted, but they need to be sent to the national DNA database to determine if any of them are linked to convicted offenders.
“When there are these violent assaults, we’ll do everything in our power to get that person off the street so we can all breathe a little more freely,” N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein said in a 2022 interview.
In September 2019, the Survivor Act became law requiring all sexual evidence kits to be submitted and tested. Leaders like Stein have spearheaded efforts to get the evidence tested, so victims can rest assured their attacker isn’t still on the streets.
“Many of these rapes go unreported, but for the ones that do, there is very rarely a conviction,” said South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace. “Some of it, the evidence might spoil for other women. They’re afraid to come forward.”
In Mecklenburg County, of the 452 kits that have been submitted, 25 have yet to be tested, but only 30 percent have been sent to CODIS, the national DNA index for law enforcement.
Two federal Justice Department grants totaling $2.9 million will help Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police hire a DNA collections coordinator to conduct a census of convicted offenders who haven’t given DNA samples. They’ll be able to hire two officers to collect that DNA, and will be able to purchase the supplies and support the man-hours necessary to carry out the program.
It will also be used to investigate cold cases that aren’t sexually motivated.
“When we can identify who did it, we will hold them accountable,” said Stein.