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Recently tested Honolulu rape kits match known criminals

June 14, 2017 - 8:55am

HONOLULU — Honolulu police have matched some DNA profiles obtained from 180 recently processed rape kits with potential perpetrators in a national offender database — a development that they say could solve years-old crimes or prevent serial sex offenders from raping again.

The Honolulu Police Department tested kits that involve cases in which the rapist was a stranger, the victim was a minor, a serial offender was suspected or there were multiple suspects involved.

Rape kits are used by medical personnel and investigators to collect evidence from alleged victims and are often crucial in helping to identify and prosecute suspects.

Police spokeswoman Michelle Yu said 25 percent of the kits yielded DNA profiles that could be uploaded to the federal database. The remaining kits had insufficient DNA or yielded a DNA profiled that matched the victim.

Yu declined comment on how many of the 45 usable DNA profiles resulted in a match with someone in the national offender database.

“After this work has been completed, more information will be released,” said Yu. “Releasing the stats without additional information would be premature and could cause confusion and possibly give false hope to victims.”

The 180 kits are the first of hundreds of old rape kits law enforcement agencies are testing after acknowledging last year they had tested only a small fraction of the evidence kits submitted to them as part of investigations over the years. From the 1990s to 2016, only 13 percent of 2,240 rape kits were tested.

The police department began receiving the first test results in December.

Hawaii’s law enforcement agencies are not alone in neglecting to test rape kits. Tens of thousands of the forensic evidence kits have languished in evidence rooms for years in cities and counties throughout the country, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Growing pressure from victim advocacy groups, as well as policies put in place under the Obama administration, have resulted in cities processing thousands of kits. The results have helped solve cold cases and identified serial rapists.

Hawaii’s county police departments are sending hundreds of kits to mainland laboratories for testing this year. The state Attorney General’s Office contracted to send 500 kits to labs in February.

In total, law enforcement determined in December that 1,443 kits would be tested. However, the total is expected to change based on additional information provided by the police departments, Josh Wisch, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this week.

The kits contain swabs of bodily fluid, hair, clothing and other potential DNA evidence sources collected in the hours or days after alleged assaults during a painstaking process that can last several hours.

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