Local law enforcement agencies get $177K to work through sexual assault kit backlogs

The Attorney General's Office is providing more than $177,000 in cold storage units for law enforcement agencies across the state, all to better store evidence from sexual assault investigations.

Many law enforcement agencies grapple with large backlogs of sexual assault kits, which can take months—or even years—to work through. Attorney General Bob Ferguson says his office won a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to work through their backlog.

To that end, the AG's office is allocating $177,204.73 to 53 local law enforcement agencies for them to purchase refrigeration units. Police departments and sheriff's offices all across Washington will receive funding over the course of two rounds.

According to the AG's office, 53 of the state's 260 agencies reported they need more storage for evidence.

"More storage means more evidence can be tested, and more crimes can be solved," Ferguson said. "These resources will bring justice to survivors."

The better storage will also help agencies comply with House Bill 2318, passed in 2020, which requires unreported sexual assault evidence to be stored for at least 20 years. This includes sexual assault kits and other evidence taken at hospitals that have not been reported to police yet.

Evidence from reported assaults must be stored for 100 years.

Ferguson says that, thanks to funding approval by the Washington Legislature in 2019, a high-throughput DNA lab in Vancouver has allowed agencies to more quickly work through their backlogs of sexual assault kits. Since 2019, Ferguson says the crime lab has tested 5,278 kits, leading to 1,315 matches in the national DNA index system.

For more information on the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, visit the Attorney General's Office website.

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