In Dutchess County there are at least 90 untested Sexual Offense Evidence Collection (SOEC) kits, the Poughkeepsie Journal reports. These kits date back to 2008, and have yet to be sent to the state’s crime lab in Albany for testing. The current state of SOECs belongs to nationwide phenomena spurred by the absence of legislation that would regulate the counting and testing of the kits.
According to the National Institue of Justice, SOECs are used to collect evidence from the victim of rape by a medical professional, often a specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). The type of evidence collected depends on what occurred during the assault.
The 90 kits in Dutchess County belong to the estimated 140,000 kits which the Joyful Heart Foundation estimates are in 27 states alone. The Oregonian reports of 5,000 untested kits statewide. In Virginia, NBC Washington reports over 2,000. Two months ago, officials in Florida told of 13,500 untested kits.
Currently, New York is one of 44 states without laws that mandate the counting and testing of kits. But that could change. Stateline reports states such as New York, Arizona and Hawaii are considering bills that would require an inventory of backlogged kits. In Oregon, a bill that would require the testing of old kits is under consideration.
In Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island bills that would require both the inventory and testing of kits are being considered.
Stateline also reports of 20 states that are moving to test unexamined SOECs. Among those, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio and Texas have already passed laws that require old kits be tested. In Michigan and Tennessee, law enforcement agencies are faced with new time limits to submit kits.
In spite of the slow progress with which the kits have been tested, they remain an integral part of sexual assault cases.
“They are important in securing all different kinds of evidence,” SUNY New Paltz Police Chief Dugatkin said.
This type of evidence can include fingerprints, skin and hair samples.
“Laws are only as good as those that follow them,” Dugatkin said. As for the absence of laws governing testing, Dugatkin said they wouldn’t hurt.
In New York, the glut of untested kits arrives in the wake of “Enough is Enough,” a bill Governor Cuomo passed in July of 2015. The legislation requires all colleges to adopt a set of comprehensive procedures and guidelines, including a uniform definition of affirmative consent and expand access to law enforcement.
SUNY New Paltz was a model for “Enough is Enough,” said SUNY New Paltz Executive Director for Compliance and Campus Climate Tanhena Pacheco-Dunn. Since its ratification, Pacheco-Dunn says that a greater number of students have emerged seeking guidance on matters related to sexual assault.
“There wasn’t a big change in New Paltz policy after ‘Enough is Enough.’ We were already there,” Pacheco-Dunn said.