Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08) has signed on as a co-sponsor to legislation this week which will allow state and local law enforcement agencies to more quickly process the existing backlog of sexual assault forensic evidence kits across the country.
"The currently backlog of hundreds of thousands of unprocessed sexual assault forensic evidence kits that are sitting on shelves in police stations and crime labs across the country is unacceptable," said Fitzpatrick. "Each of these tests has the potential to provide law enforcement with key information in unsolved crimes and can help take criminals off the streets. This legislation will provide local governments and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to clear this dangerous backlog."
H.R. 354, the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act requires that 75% of existing appropriations for forensic evaluations be spent directly on analyzing untested crime scene DNA evidence or increasing the capacity of labs to do so. Current law only requires that 40% of these funds be spent on these core purposes.
It also allows State and local governments, at their sole discretion, to use existing funds to conduct one-time, one-year audits of untested sexual assault evidence in their possession, while clarifying that all funds for these audits must come from funds that would not have otherwise been used for testing evidence.
The SAFER Act has earned the supported of the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), the Fraternal Order of Police, and various other victims and law enforcement organizations.
Barbara Clark, Executive Director of the Network of Victim Assistance, expressed the importance of this legislation, saying "NOVA supports legislation that encourages timely processing of forensic evidence in cases of sexual assaults. A backlog in processing these kinds of cases is unacceptable and compromises justice for victims and safety for communities."
Fitzpatrick concluded, noting that "as a member of the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus, the SAFER Act is one of my top priorities in promoting public safety and security in the 113th Congress."