RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says a new law to fund testing for sexual assault kits sitting in law enforcement evidence closets will put rapists in prison and ensure a backlog never happens again.
Stein, police and sexual assault victim advocates held a news conference Thursday at the State Crime Laboratory to praise the measure signed the day before by Gov. Roy Cooper.
An audit determined there were 15,000 untested kits across the state as of last year. The measure includes $6 million over two years to test the remaining kits and requires police and sheriffs to submit future kits for testing within 45 days. Law enforcement also will create local teams that will determine which evidence kits should be prioritized for testing, such as those who have the greatest potential for matches within the national DNA database.
“It will bring justice to victims. It will get dangerous, violent criminals off of our streets,” Stein said. “Each kit represents a person who experienced an awful trauma and to whom we owe our utmost dedication to try bring justice. And frankly, the state has not done right by those people until today.”
Some law enforcement agencies have already prioritized their backlogs and whittled down their pending evidence kits, resulting in some DNA matches. Grant funding of $4 million already had been located to help with the process. Still, the testing backlog will take a few years to eliminate, according to Stein, a Democrat.
The measure, which received unanimous approval by the Republican-led legislature, is one of four Cooper signed this week that contained otherwise popular provisions from the state budget bill that Cooper vetoed for other reasons. The other “mini-budget” bills address funding for school and prison safety and disaster relief.