Friday, October 5, 2018

Akron Police Awarded $1 Million to Investigate Sexual Assault Cold Cases From 1,822 Rape Kits

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2018 at 11:35 AM

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After applying for a grant with the U.S. Department of Justice last June, the city of Akron has been awarded nearly $1 million to assist with cracking sexual assault cold cases as part of the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.

Prior to this, the Akron police department lacked adequate staffing to effectively process the city's backlog of cold cases, assigning only one detective to process the 1,822 rape kits tested since 2012.

Of those, 847 kits returned genetic profiles from DNA collected from crime scenes, felons and felony suspects. These results have provided Akron police the names of suspects in 498 cold cases and genetic profiles in another 349, which may be cross-referenced with other crimes committed elsewhere in America.



Terri Heckman, the CEO of the Akron Rape Crisis Center, told Channel 5 that there are victims who may not want to revisit the sexual assaults of their past from 15-20 years ago, but that there will also be victims who will say, 'Thank goodness. For the first time in 15, 20 years, I'm gonna be able to sleep, knowing that you found him and he's behind bars.'"

Law Enforcement Planner Carol McCullough told City Council's Public Safety committee that the grant money will allow Akron police to launch a three-year initiative and build a team of investigators, which includes a 1-year administrative specialist.

The grant money also allows for a case management database specifically for cold cases, as well as the partial costs of a Summit County prosecutor and a victim assistance advocate who would work with the investigators.

All team members would be given specialty training in "Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation and Prosecution" and "Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview."

"What we will do is handle them thoroughly, every one of them," Akron Major Jesse Leeser told Channel 5. "We'll approach them like we would a fresh case, re-interview victims, witnesses and approach each one individually."

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