Cuyahoga County

Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force

Sexual Assault Kit Task Force

A National Model

What is the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force?

The Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force is a multidisciplinary group of forensic scientists, investigators, victim advocates, prosecutors and other criminal justice partners dedicated to the testing, investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases arising from previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs) in Cuyahoga County. Nearly 5,000 SAKs collected between 1993 and 2010 are being reexamined as a result of these efforts.

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What is a Rape Kit?

The video below was produced by The Plain Dealer to explain what a rape kit is and how it is used to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual assault.

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Mission and Purpose

The Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force is committed to investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases arising from previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits within the jurisdiction. In doing so, the Task Force will examine the systemic factors that led to a backlog of sexual assault kits, develop and utilize evidence-based best practices, and collaborate locally, with other jurisdictions and with survivors of sexual assault to improve the manner in which sexual assault cases are addressed in Cuyahoga County and across the country.

The work of the task force has proven that perpetrators of sexual violence in Cuyahoga County often go on to commit subsequent crimes, including additional sexual assaults. The successful pursuit and prosecution of these predators not only will vastly improve public safety, but also will help make strides toward rebuilding trust in the criminal justice system, especially among survivors of these crimes who have waited years for their cases to be resolved.

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History of the Task Force

Never before have so many dangerous rapists been identified and arrested in such a short time. Untested rape kits have been a gold mine for law enforcement.
– Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty

In May 2011, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine invited law enforcement agencies across the state to submit for testing any sexual assault kits, regardless of age, that had been collected but never tested for DNA. The Cleveland Division of Police conducted an inventory in response to this invitation and eventually submitted nearly 5,000 previously untested kits that had been collected between 1993 and 2010. The Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force was established in 2013 by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office in order to investigate and prosecute a growing volume of previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits that had been tested.

“Dollar for dollar this will be the most productive use of time and money by a law enforcement task force ever in Cuyahoga County,” Prosecutor McGinty said in May of 2014, when the Task Force indicted its 100th defendant. “We now realize that the DNA in these old rape kits is a ticket to prison for a trainload of violent rapists. These Cold Case kits are a virtual gold mine. We have an unprecedented opportunity to take a large percentage of this county’s most dangerous criminals off the street all at the same time. We have hit the mother lode – and we intend to mine the hell out of it.

"By putting them in prison, these habitual offenders will not be able to rape, burglarize or kill others – which our data proves they otherwise would. This Task Force will have a surprisingly significant impact on the safety of the community and on public confidence as we remove hundreds of one-man crime waves from the streets."


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Members of the Task Force

Members of the Task Force include:

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office provides administrative oversight to the Task Force as well as office space, investigators, prosecutors and victim advocates.

 

The Ohio Attorney General's Office, Bureau of Criminal Investigation

Since 2013, the Ohio Attorney General's Office, Bureau of Criminal Investigation has provided forensic testing for previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits. BCI also has embedded numerous, skilled investigators within the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force to follow up on leads once testing has been completed. Learn more about this partner.

The Cleveland Division of Police, Sex Crimes Unit

The Cleveland Division of Police details detectives to the Task Force to aid in investigations. Learn more about this partner.

The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center

The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center provides guidance on a victim-centered approach as well as trauma-informed services. It also serves as the primary provider of counseling and other referral services for survivors of sexual assault whose cases are being investigated through the Task Force. Members of the CRCC work in close coordination with Sexual Assault Victim Advocates employed by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office to provide advocacy services to survivors. Learn more about this partner.

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office details detectives to the Task Force to aid in investigations. Learn more about this partner.

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Funding

In addition to having numerous detectives, investigators and other personnel assigned to the Task Force from its partner agencies, The Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force receives generous financial support through the following entities:

The United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative

The Ohio Attorney General's Office,
Safe Neighborhoods Initiative

The Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office was awarded $1.9 million in October 2015 (for a three-year project period) to fund additional personnel to support prosecution and victim advocacy, as well as for training and materials development and program evaluation. Learn more.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office was awarded $450,000 in early 2015 to fund six additional investigators to support investigations of cold case sexual assaults reopened through the Task Force. Learn more.

Since 2014, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office has received Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funding as a sub-grant through the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services to partially fund the position of one Sexual Assault Victim Advocate to provide advocacy services to survivors.



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