January 24, 2023 / 2:50 PM / CW44 Tampa Bay
TAMPA BAY, Fla. (Tampa Bay Now) – The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced an online database is now giving survivors of sexual violence the power to know more about the findings in their case.
Based on Gail’s Law which passed in 2021, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has implemented an online database for sexual assault evidence collection kits (SAKS) that allows sexual assault survivors to monitor the processing of their case. It’s a web-based tracking system that will allow survivors of sexual violence to follow the path of their kits – something that typically took months to learn before. A survivor can even find out if there was a DNA match to an alleged perpetrator.
“So they’ll know, ‘is it at the laboratory, is it at the law enforcement agency? Is the testing complete on their kit’,” said Crime Lab Analyst Supervisor Marcella Scott with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is often on the receiving end of a survivor’s phone call.
“For each and every one of those individuals, it is the most horrific crime that’s ever happened to them,” said CEO/President of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Clara Reynolds. “We actually did 334 exams last fiscal year. Going through the forensic exam is a grueling process. It’s painful, it takes a long time to do it. And so, by giving people the opportunity at any time that they want to, to find out where their evidence is in the process will go a long way in providing a bit of that power and control back into their lives,” said Reynolds.
Previously, those kits had to be submitted to labs within 30 days and created a four month mandatory turnaround time for testing.
“It was discovered across the entire United States that there were thousands and thousands of sexual assault evidence kits that were sitting in property rooms that had never been tested,” said Scott. “It’s helping the survivors and it’s also been helpful for the medical facilities and law-enforcement agencies and laboratories to see where this evidence is at as well.”
The database is currently being used by 41 counties including Pinellas County Crime Laboratories. Since its pilot launch in 2022, more than 400 kits have been added to the database. Access to the database will expand statewide by July of 2023.