Department of Justice awards $2 million to Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force
Cleveland — Cuyahoga County’s aggressive team effort to investigate and prosecute cases arising from backlogged rape kits drew national recognition today.
The United States Department of Justice announced that the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and its partners will receive nearly $2 million over the next three years to accelerate the work of bringing rapists to justice, assisting the survivors of those crimes and changing the culture of law enforcement here and throughout the country when it comes to investigating sexual assaults.
“We are proud to be taking violent criminals off the streets, preventing future crimes and making Cleveland and Cuyahoga County safer,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said. “This money from the Justice Department will enable us to do even more and do it faster. We appreciate the vote of confidence and intend to earn every cent of this money.”
The $1.993 million grant is a part of $41 million the Justice Department has committed to its National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. According to the DOJ, “the goals of the initiative are to create a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to these cases whenever possible through a victim-centered approach, as well as to build jurisdictions’ capacity to prevent conditions that lead to high numbers of untested kits.”
That is exactly what is already going on in Cuyahoga County.
After Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine committed to DNA testing every rape kit in the state, Prosecutor McGinty in 2013 pulled together a task force to pursue the leads generated by that testing.
The Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force is a collaborative effort of the Cleveland Division of Police, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. It currently includes 25 investigators, three victim advocates, a criminal intelligence analyst and four prosecuting attorneys.
“This is truly a team effort – the most successful, sustained effort I have seen during more than four decades in the criminal justice system here,” Prosecutor McGinty said. “Everyone works together, and the results speak volumes.”
To date, more than 4,800 sexual assault kits collected in Cuyahoga County between 1993 and 2010 have been submitted for testing. The Task Force has completed 1,157 follow-up investigations and has begun another 1,929. Its work has led to indictments of 370 defendants and to 102 convictions in the 115 cases that have been completed. The Task Force expects to indict 1,000 cases before its work is complete.
“The Department of Justice is proud to provide this $2 million to help Prosecutor McGinty and his office pursue and solve these tragic cases,” U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach said. “Rape survivors carry around the scars of these heinous crimes for decades, and we in law enforcement owe it to them to do everything in our power to track down rapists no matter how long and how difficult the road. Today’s DOJ grant recognizes that Tim McGinty’s vision and drive to do that is worthy of real support.”
The new money from the Justice Department will be used over three years to add four more prosecutors and another advocate.
Funds will also go to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center to provide trauma training to Task Force members and to Case Western Reserve University’s Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education. The CWRU team is using data compiled by the task force to understand what led to the backlog of kits and to provide recommendations, best practices and training to prevent it from happening again. The research team has already started work, seeded by $100,000 in forfeiture money taken from criminals in Cuyahoga County.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to study rape and rapists and learn lessons that will protect our communities in the future at the same time that we are putting violent criminals in prison and bringing justice to the women they attacked,” said Prosecutor McGinty.
Prosecutor McGinty also praised Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose offer to test all rape kits removed a financial hurdle that has slowed efforts in other communities to deal with backlogs.
“Mike DeWine made everything we are doing possible with his recognition that these kits are a gold mine of information for law enforcement,” Prosecutor McGinty said. “This is an opportunity we dare not waste, and we thank him for his leadership and his vision.”
Attorney General DeWine said, “Cuyahoga County is a leader in Ohio and across the nation when it comes to aggressively investigating attackers who have avoided prosecution for far too long. Thanks to Prosecutor McGinty’s innovative approach to investigating these cases and the work of his Sexual Assault Kit Task Force, vicious attackers who have terrorized innocent victims in Cuyahoga County for years are now finally being held accountable.”
Contact: Joseph Frolik, Director of Communications and Public Policy. Phone: (216) 443-7488; or Cell: 216-640-6186. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org