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Program Aims To Empower Rape Victims With Kit Tracking

By Kevin Penton | April 14, 2019, 8:02 PM EDT

Rape victims in Harris County, Texas, will soon be able to electronically track their rape kits under a pilot program expected to expand this fall to other parts of the state.

Victims will be able to track the location of the forensic information that is collected from them after they undergo an attack, a feature which authorities in Houston say is often requested by survivors.

“For victims to be able to track their own evidence gives them the sense of power that is lost in their violent attacks,” said Kim Ogg, Harris County’s district attorney, during an announcement on Thursday.

Harris County will use Track It, a program developed by Delaware-based STACS DNA Inc., to provide a portal for rape victims, authorities and others vested in an incident to access records of the kits, according to the Houston Forensic Science Center, which will coordinate the program.

Houston will be the largest city in the state to implement such a program, according to STACS DNA.

“This is great for survivors because they will have a secure portal,” said Amy Castillo, chief operating officer and vice president of the science center, during Thursday’s announcement.

Harris County has focused on the issue of rape kits for several years, following revelations that Houston had a backlog of more than 6,600 rape kits, said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.

The backlog mushroomed in part because of funding priorities, said Acevedo, who noted that authorities have since taken on the outlook that apprehending a sexual assault suspect today may help prevent another incident in the future.

“We can bring out justice to sexual assault survivors that cry out, scream out, and demand and obviously deserve to have justice,” said Acevedo during the announcement.

By September, the science center is expected to use a $83,000 state grant to collect and process rape kits for 19 counties in western Texas, some of which Ogg said simply do not have the resources to effectively process the information.

“Evidence is at the heart of every criminal case,” Ogg said. “The way we handle evidence can both exonerate and convict people.”

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--Editing by Katherine Rautenberg.