Updated 10/22/2009 09:36 PM
Rape Kit Gets First Update In 20 Years
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Investigators will soon have a new tool at their disposal to collect evidence from rape victims.
The first updated rape kit in 20 years was unveiled Thursday at St. Luke's Hospital in Morningside Heights, Manhattan.
The kit allows examiners to take more DNA samples from different parts of the body and involves a more comprehensive exam.
"Originally when DNA testing was first used forensically for the criminal justice process, they did a process called RFLP, which required enough DNA, about the size of a quarter," said Lisa Friel, the head of the Manhattan District Attorney Office's Sex Crimes Unit. "Now we're able to get a DNA profile for something about the size of a head of a pin. So you see that kind of change in your ability to test, you have to reflect that in your collection methods as well."
"I'm really excited because I know and I'm very confident this is going to mean major changes for victims of sexual assault who want to prosecute and also seek medical treatment," said Director Susan Xenarios of the Crime Victims Treatment Center. "The kit has some major differences and they're really going to make a significant difference, not just for medical care, but also for forensic evidence collection."
The kit also addresses male victims. Reports says men account for two to three percent of rape victims.
A training video, with an introduction by actress Mariska Hargitay of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” accompanies the kit.
State officials also want to collect DNA samples from all felony and misdemeanor offenders. Currently, DNA samples are only collected from felony offenders, or about 46 percent of all convicted criminals.
"We see cases all the time that are escaping through the system, and we think we can solve many more rape and sexual assault cases if we expand our DNA collection," said New York State Deputy Public Safety Secretary Denise O'Donnell.
The criminals' samples would be tested against DNA samples found on rape victims.