A $2 million federal grant awarded to Minnesota will be used to test sexual assault kits, assist in investigations and aid victim advocacy groups, officials announced Friday.
The funds, the second $2 million grant awarded to the state for such work, will be divided among several agencies: the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office and Alexandra House.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Justice Programs received the money from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
“The Office of Justice Programs is proud to work with our project partners to find ways to streamline kit submissions, improve sexual assault investigations and provide support to victims across Minnesota,” the office’s executive director, Kate Weeks, said in a written statement. “Learning from this process, we will move toward improved policies and practices for responding to sexual assault incidents.”
In a 2015 inventory, authorities discovered 3,482 sexual assault kits at law enforcement agencies across Minnesota that had not been submitted to a lab for testing, according to the public safety department.
Last month, Minneapolis police revealed that it had an estimated 1,700 untested rape kits dating back to the 1990s.
According to the Department of Public Safety, the justice programs office will retain about $21,600 to manage the grant. The BCA will receive about $1.3 million to test the evidence kits, track data and help local law enforcement agencies investigate cases.
The Coalition Against Sexual Assault will receive about $317,000 to “coordinate a multidisciplinary team and protocol development.”
Alexandra House, an advocacy group for survivors of sexual and domestic abuse, will receive about $109,700.
The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office will receive about $219,000 for investigations and “protocol development.”
The Office of Justice Programs first received $2 million in 2018 for the Minnesota Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Project, according to the public safety department. In that time, 250 kits from various law enforcement agencies were given to the BCA for testing, among other developments.
“This is an opportunity to gain valuable information from kits that for years have gone untested,” BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said in a written statement. “Testing these kits will, in some cases, result in new information that can inform investigations and may bridge gaps in justice.”