WILMINGTON, NC (AP/WWAY) — North Carolina’s attorney general says the state has more than 15,000 untested sexual assault kits, a number that one national advocacy group called “significant.”
Attorney General Josh Stein released the numbers at a news conference Wednesday. A new state law required all law enforcement agencies to report their numbers of untested rape kits, and 92 percent of the 563 agencies responded.
“Testing sex assault kits is absolutely imperative. Because any person whose been victimized by a rapist we need to bring justice to that person as quickly as possible,” Stein said.
In Brunswick, Bladen, Columbus, Pender, and New Hanover Counties, anywhere between 10% and nearly 50% of the rape kits sat untested in 2017.
WWAY reached out to local law enforcement, and the agencies we spoke with agree there are several reasons why some tests were not sent out.
“First and the majority of the reason is they declined to prosecute,” New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman, Lt. Jerry Brewer said. “The second one would be that both parties agree that intercourse took place but there’s different reasons there and we’re investigating. The third reason would be anonymous where they’ve gone to the hospital, did the kit but stay anonymous and decline to prosecute. Back to our first issue.”
The largest number in our area is from the Wilmington Police Department. Out of 482 kits, nearly three quarters of them were not tested.
Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said many of their kits were not sent out because the rape kits failed to meet the states’ criteria for testing.
The Department of Justice wants all reported kits currently in custody tested, a tracking system, and a new protocol to test kits reported to law enforcement moving forward.
Chief Evangelous sent us the following statement in response to the announcement:
“We believe the Attorney General’s announcement today is good news for both the victims of sexual assault and law enforcement. It will help to identify possible suspects, expand the state’s suspect database, but most of all bring justice for the victim. Many of the kits in our inventory have remain untested because they failed to meet the States’ criteria for testing. The announcement today keeps us hopeful.”
Stein is proposing a bar code tracking system for future kits, and he’s seeking legislative help in determining which kits to test first. The cost of testing a kit is about $700, meaning a total cost of about $10 million.
Ilse Knecht of the Joyful Heart Foundation says it is hard to compare state-by-state numbers but says North Carolina’s is significant. She called North Carolina’s audit “a bold first step.
To see the entire report and our local law enforcement agencies’ untested rape kit numbers, click here.