Oklahoma has a backlog of over 7,200 untested rape kits in the state and Governor Kevin Stitt has signed a bill that will tackle this problem for the state.

Last week, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill that will create a statewide tracking system for collecting sexual assault evidence, which s the first of several legislative measures aimed at improving the state’s handling of rape kits and sexual assault investigations.

Sexual assault victims have a choice as to whether they have an exam done that will collect possible DNA evidence as well as receive medical care. Evidence that is gathered in such an exam is referred to as a rape kit. Testing the DNA evidence that may be collected in a rape kit often can help law enforcement officials find the perpetrator.

Senate Bill 967 by Senate Majority Leader Kay Ford creates a central repository for the information collected from Oklahoma rape kits that medical and law enforcement officials can use to keep tabs on sexual assault cases.

The tracking system as a concept came out of the 2017 Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault and Forensic Evidence, a statewide committee that was charged with determining the number of untested rape kits and deciding how to proceed.

“The task force agreed a major challenge solving sexual assault cases was that law enforcement agencies around the state were using tracking systems that weren’t compatible with other systems. There needed to be a consistent process to investigate and solve these sexual assault cases,” said Leader Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, to The Oklahoman.

The tracking system created by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) is already operable and has undergone beta testing says, Floyd. The OSBI built its tracking system with software that was donated by Ohio, which first implemented a rape kit tracking system years ago. The cost to the state was less than $100k because the OSBI received some grant money to help fund the project, said Floyd.

“It’s been ready to go, it was just waiting for the bills,” she said.

The system will track a kit’s location and whether it has been processed. Victims will also have the ability to use the system to anonymously track the status of their kit.

Medical providers and law enforcement agencies will use the system to log new rape kits, but over time, they will also enter the backlog of untested kits.

The untested kits will be entered on a rolling basis based on priority, Floyd said. The sooner the statute of limitations is set to expire in a case, the sooner the kit should be processed, she said.

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