Federal government picks NC research facility to run sexual assault test kit initiative

NORTH CAROLINA — A North Carolina organization is doing its part to solve cold case sexual assaults across the country.

The federal government picked the Research Triangle Institute International in Raleigh to run its sexual assault test kit initiative.

It has already tested more than 50,000 rape kits and out of those, more than 16,000 produced identifiable DNA.

They found that once that DNA was entered into the national database, nearly half were connected to other crimes.

"Sexual assault perpetrators don't just commit sexual assaults," forensic research scientist Patricia Melton said. "They commit other types of crimes and they don't just focus on unknown victims. They go from unknown victims to known victims, back and forth."

In North Carolina, more than 15,000 sexual assault kits are sitting on a shelf.

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In 2018, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department received a federal grant to help clear its backlog of un-tested rape kits.

It has already led to dozens of arrests.

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In October, Attorney General Josh Stein announced mandatory barcodes for every kit to better allow police and the victim to track its progress.