CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - The Illinois State Police Division of Forensic Services was directed to implement an online sexual assault tracking system by the end of the year by the new ISP Acting Director Brendan Kelly.
The current laboratory IT vendor will begin development of the online system immediately.
“Survivors of sexual assault or violent crime should know that hospitals, police, forensic scientists, and prosecutors care about their case and transparency is the best way to make sure that happens,” Kelly said.
In the Show-Me state, Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced his plan late last month to create an electronic system as well.
Rose Berkman is an Advocate and Counselor for sexual assault victims at the Women’s Center, a domestic abuse treatment center in Carbondale, Ill. She explained how this could impact most people in some way.
“Everyone knows someone who’s been a survivor of sexual assault or sexual abuse...if you are in a group of four or five people, it’s likely that one of them has experienced it," Berkman said.
She believed the new online rape kit tracking system is good news.
“This will allow them a sense of control and make them feel a part of the process," Berkman said. "It will be a lot more pressure to do things in a timely fashion and to bring prosecution to those who have committed these offenses.”
The way the process will work is the sexual assault tracking system will allow survivors of sexual assault to monitor their evidence online throughout the entire process, from collection at the hospital, through law enforcement pick-up and submission to the forensic lab. Finally, to the State’s Attorney’s office where final results are received.
Sgt. David Kemp is with the Carbondale Police Department.
“One of the most difficult aspects of the whole process of once you call the police and let me know what has happened...is not knowing what is going on," he said.
Kemp said his department already stays in close contact with the victims. However, he says the struggle is with the backlog of cases at the state police crime lab.
“And this is a very big step towards providing people with the information so they know or at least have a better idea of what’s going on in the process of the investigation,” Kemp said.
Berkman believed this will inspire optimism for the future of sexual assault victims.
“When you’re invvolved and you’ve got infomation, you do feel like you’ve got more control. Especially during a time when control has been taken away from you," she said.
The tracking of sexual assault kits allows survivors to check on the status of their evidence without compromising their privacy. To ensure privacy, the system will use unique case numbers and passwords to limit access to survivors and law enforcement. In addition, it will be exempt from FOIA laws, so no survivor’s information will be released.
According to ISP, the transparency of this data will reveal additional opportunities for stakeholders to develop operational procedures or legislation that will eliminate barriers to fast turnaround time.
The system will be implemented by the end of the year, according the ISP.