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Image of the Virginia AG Seal

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

900 East Main Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Michael Kelly, Director of Communications
Phone: (804)786-5874 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

VIRGINIA RECEIVES $1.4 MILLION TO TEST MORE THAN 2,000 UNTESTED SEXUAL ASSAULT EVIDENCE KITS

~ Office of Attorney General Herring and Virginia Department of Forensic Science (DFS) received grant to test untested Victim Physical Evidence Recovery Kits (PERKs) in the Commonwealth ~

RICHMOND(September 10, 2015) - Attorney General Mark R. Herring and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran announced today that the Commonwealth of Virginia has received a $1.4 million grant to conduct DNA testing and analyze more than 2,000 untested Physical Evidence Recovery Kits (PERKs)  associated with sexual assaults in Virginia. By testing these kits and searching the profiles against DNA databases, law enforcement will be able to identify additional crimes by known perpetrators and make connections between crimes committed by unidentified perpetrators. Attorney General Herring partnered with DFS to apply for the grant in June.

 

"Sexual violence is a truly heinous crime that cannot be tolerated in the Commonwealth and I'm really pleased that we will now have the resources to test these kits," said Attorney General Mark R. Herring. "We know that sexual violence is a serial crime and perpetrators are often repeat offenders. By analyzing these kits we can build a stronger database, connect the dots on these terrible crimes, and put dangerous predators away. Clearing out this backlog will also help show survivors that the Commonwealth is committed to helping them seek justice as part of their healing process. I appreciate the commitment of DFS and the many victim advocacy and law enforcement groups who supported our application and will help oversee implementation the grant."

 

"The Department of Forensic Science is excited to work with the Office of the Attorney General to coordinate the testing of more than 2,000 Physical Evidence Recovery Kits or PERKs that were identified in the recent PERK inventory," stated Brian Moran, the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.  He added that "DNA profiles developed from this evidence can then be searched against the Virginia and National DNA Data Banks to potentially identify the perpetrator of these horrendous crimes and provide closure and justice for the victims." 

 

PERKs contain evidence collected from victims during an extensive examination conducted at a hospital or crisis center following a sexual assault. The DNA evidence contained in PERKs is a powerful tool for identifying suspects, convicting perpetrators, preventing future offenses, and even exonerating the innocent. DNA from a PERK in one jurisdiction may help to solve crimes in that jurisdiction, and in other jurisdictions across the country.

 

In cases where a suspect has not yet been identified, biological evidence can be analyzed and compared to offender profiles in DNA databases, such as the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), to help identify the perpetrator. Crime scene evidence can also be linked to other crime scenes through the use of DNA databases to identify serial offenders, and arrests for lower-level crimes in one state might help solve a cold case in another state.

 

Today's grant is awarded to Virginia as part of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's $38 million initiative to test 56,000 PERKs in more than 20 states. The grant should allow the Commonwealth to test 2,034 previously untested PERKs from 65 law enforcement agencies holding five or more kits. The proposal includes an implementation plan to retrieve the untested kits from the 65 agencies by creating a steering committee overseen by OAG and DFS and comprised of representatives from the following groups:

 

  • Virginia Victim Assistance Network;
  • Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police;
  • Virginia Sheriffs' Association;
  • Commonwealth's Attorneys Services Council;  
  • Virginia Chapter of the International Association of Forensic Nurses;
  • A local victim advocate who works primarily with sexual assault cases from a jurisdiction with a large number of untested kits;
  • A local prosecutor from a community with a large number of untested kits; and
  • An experienced sexual assault investigator.

 

In order to help administer the grant and ensure localities and survivors have access to the services they need, OAG will hire a Project Administrator to oversee the grant and work with local prosecutors, law enforcement, and survivors. The Project Administrator will also work with survivors and witnesses to coordinate services and track all of the grant data through a newly created database.  The grant application was guided by data released in DFS' Physical Evidence Recovery Kit Inventory Report.

 

This significant grant is a part of Attorney General Herring's ongoing efforts to support survivors of sexual violence and gather more useful data to learn more about these crimes. Some of the OAG's other programs, initiatives, and legislation to help survivors of domestic and sexual violence include:

 

Campus Sexual Violence - Earlier this year, Attorney General Herring chaired the Governor's Task Force on Campus Sexual Violence that released 21 recommendations to help combat campus sexual violence in Virginia, including proposed legislation to require that PERKs be retained for a specific period of time.

Victim Notification Program - Ensures victims' right to be informed of any appeal, habeas corpus proceeding or civil commitment, including the date, time and place of any hearing and the court's decision. The OAG also offers a comprehensive explanation of the appellate process. 

Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) - Helps keep a victim's new address confidential from their abuser. The ACP provides a substitute address for receiving mail and use in public records which has no relation to a victim's actual address. The ACP also provides a confidential mail forwarding service to participants in the program.

Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign - Raises awareness in Virginia of human trafficking and resources available to victims through billboards and signs on major highways across the Commonwealth, along with signage at every Virginia rest area. The signs encourage victims or those with information about possible human trafficking to contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's hotline.

Victim-Focused Legislation and Initiatives - Several of Attorney Generals Mark Herring's initiatives provide law enforcement with additional training for domestic violence and ensure greater protections are on the side of victims. HB 2120 protects victims of domestic violence by denying bail for individuals charged with felony strangulation, and lethality assessment protocol training is facilitated by OAG to help law enforcement prevent further victimization.

 

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