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Idaho Finds Success With Sex Assault Kit Tracking As NC Weighs Bill To Adopt Similar System

sexual assault test kit
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kate Thornton-Maurer

It’s now up to the North Carolina Senate to give final approval to legislation that would establish a tracking system of sexual assault evidence collection kits. The House this week gave the idea a resounding endorsement with the unanimous passage of the legislation.

The aim of the bill (Senate Bill 727) is to reduce the number of untested kits – roughly 200 at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's crime lab. Attorney General Josh Stein says the number statewide is closer to 15,000. How delays in DNA testing impact cases is just one of the issues addressed in this week’s episode of She Says, WFAE’s investigative podcast that tells the story of a sexual assault victim and how Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have handled her case.

Matthew Gamette, the lab system director at the Idaho State Police crime lab, says North Carolina crime lab officials have been calling him as the idea of a tracking system has gained traction. In 2017, Idaho became the first state to implement a statewide tracking system. 

“Anecdotal data suggests it's given more confidence to victims that if they go to a hospital or clinic go through a very invasive examination that their kit in their case is going to be taken very seriously," Gamette said. "We do take sexual assault very seriously in Idaho.” 

Now, a sexual assault survivor can find out when the kit is submitted for testing, when a DNA profile is found and if it matches to someone already in a national crime database. Most importantly, Gamette says the tracking system is a success. The Idaho state lab reported a 107 percent increase in DNA cases because both new and previously untested kits were sent for testing.

Gamette says his lab wants to share its system – and software – with other states.

“We will give it to them we'll show them how to download it on their database," he said. "I'm also working with some federal programs and entities to try and make it an open source — a true open source software that states and entities can just take and implement if they would like the system and they can't afford a commercial product.” 

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