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Reauthorization of Program to Test DNA Kits Could Lead to More Arrests in Sexual Assault Cases

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TWC News: Reauthorization of Program to Test DNA Kits Could Lead to More Arrests in Sexual Assault Cases
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Thousands of sexual assaults are reported in the city and across the country each year, and this week, President Barack Obama reauthorized a program that allocates hundreds of millions of dollars to help test DNA kits, which could lead to multiple arrests. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

It's a crime that too many women are faced with.

"Every two minutes, unbelievably, somewhere in our country, a woman is sexually assaulted. That's over 230,000 sexual assaults each year," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, whose district covers parts of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.

Maloney said approved national funding will help to make sure the backlog of thousands of DNA rape kits sitting on shelves across the country will finally be examined.

Natasha Alexenko is a survivor.

"While I was a college student, I was raped, robbed and sodomized at gunpoint on West 95th Street," she said.

That was more than 20 years ago. She said the DNA she provided wasn't tested for nearly 10 years. Eventually, it lead to an arrest. She said no matter how difficult, victims should provide DNA.

"A rape kit exam is so very necessary to capture that DNA evidence in order to find the perpetrator," Alexenko said.

"These criminals are serial offenders, and we like to say they are not specialists. They commit all kinds of crimes," said Ilse Knecht of the National Center for Victims of Crime. "They commit burglary and homicide. They commit rape."

The medical examiner's office, which is responsible for testing, said there's currently no backlog in the city, and the office has implemented a new method of identifying semen and saliva quicker.

A few years ago, the ME did have to re-examine several kits because of a technician's errors.

"Any time there is an issue raised about the quality of analysts or the scientific quality of the work, we are going to look at it," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. "I believe we have every reason to be highly confident."

DNA also clears people. After reviewing cases, Brooklyn prosecutors have overturned eight murder convictions this year, two of them because of DNA.

"DNA evidence will help us exonerate people who are, been accused of murder or convicted of murder or of sex crimes," said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Thompson said a recently formed forensics unit in his office is looking at all crimes that involve DNA.

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