FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 8, 2014
Contact: Kath Cummins
Washington, DC – The National Center for Victims of Crime welcomes yesterday’s unanimous House passage of a measure that continues our nations’ commitment to eliminating the rape kit backlog and taking dangerous offenders off the streets.
Late Monday, the House of Representatives approved H.R.4323, a bill that reauthorizes the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Act and provides vital funding for crime labs to reduce their backlog of untested sexual assault kits. Reauthorization for the program runs out in October. The Senate is currently considering a larger package, S.822, which includes the Debbie Smith grants reauthorization provisions, and passed committee on October 31, 2013.
“Every untested rape kit has the potential to solve a crime and get serial rapists and murderers into custody,” said Mai Fernandez, Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. “This bill will ensure jurisdictions have the funds to use DNA to make our communities safer. We now call on the Senate to pass this important legislation.”
Debbie Smith grants also support law enforcement training on identification, collection, and preservation of forensic DNA and sexual assault nurse examiner programs, which provide survivors with compassionate post-assault medical care and evidence collection.
“The federal government plays a crucial role in supporting the use of DNA to solve violent crimes throughout the country, bring hope to victims, and exonerate the innocent, said Debbie Smith, rape survivor, advocate, and founder of H-E-A-R-T. “I know firsthand the power of this tool. We must continue to build on the progress made to identify rapists and other criminals more quickly and, by all means, not allow backlogs to be an excuse for making victims wait, often in fear, while their attackers roam free.”
The bi-partisan legislation has the endorsement of the National Center for Victims of Crime and the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN).
More about the Debbie Smith Act
The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Elimination Act provides funding to states and local governments to address their backlogged rape kits and other DNA evidence at crime labs across the country. Originally passed in 2004 and reauthorized in 2008, the Debbie Smith Grant Act has provided over $584 million to crime labs for DNA analysis that has helped identify perpetrators of the most violent crimes – rape and murder. While this funding has made a significant dent in the national backlog of rape kits, communities across the country are still struggling to keep up with testing. Recently, a Massachusetts Senate Committee announced that the Boston police crime lab faces an “unprecedented backlog” of rape kits due in part to “staffing concerns.”
The National Center for Victims of Crime, established in 1985, is the nation’s leading resource and advocacy organization for crime victims and those who serve them. For more than 25 years, the National Center has led this nation’s struggle to provide crime victims with the rights, protections, and services they need to rebuild their lives.