Washington state awarded $3M grant for rape-kit testing

SEATTLE  — Washington state will receive $3 million in federal grants to help authorities make a dent in the backlog of thousands of untested rape kits and to create a team to investigate sexual assaults that may have occurred years ago.

The grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice's Sexual Assault Kit Initiative is part of $34 million awarded to 20 jurisdictions across the country, The Seattle Times reported on Saturday.

Half of the money will pay for the testing of 2,100 rape kits out of the estimated 6,000 that are untested statewide. The kits, which have been stored in evidence lockups at police departments, contain forensic evidence collected from a victim's clothing and body. It costs about $700 to analyze each kit.

The remaining money will be distributed over three years to fund an investigative team, which will include two full-time investigators. The investigators will travel across the state to conduct an inventory of the untested kits and will help local police departments prioritize the kits for testing, according to the state Attorney General's Office.

Democratic state Rep. Tina Orwall said the state has applied for the grant twice before and was turned down both times. She said the state Attorney General's Office got involved in the process for this year, and the effort was successful. Orwall, who co-chairs a state task force on the untested kits, said the state will also have access to a federal technical-assistance team and to police training on how to investigate cold cases in a way that minimizes trauma to victims.