Attorney General Bonta Launches New Matching Grant Aimed at Reducing Sexual Assault Evidence Backlogs Across California
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the launch of a new dollar-for-dollar matching grant aimed at assisting local authorities in reducing backlogs of unprocessed sexual assault evidence in their jurisdictions. Through the matching requirement, the grant will help leverage approximately $3.6 million in state and local funds for the processing of sexual assault evidence across the state. Applications for the grant are due by 5:00 PM on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
“Anything we can do to support and stand up for survivors of sexual assault is critical,” said Attorney General Bonta. “At the California Department of Justice, our team is working day in and day out to help our partners across the state process sexual assault evidence. But more needs to be done to address existing backlogs across the state. Any sexual assault evidence kit that has fallen through the cracks is one too many. These kits have a direct impact on people’s lives. That’s why I encourage all eligible agencies to apply now for this important grant opportunity.”
The Untested Sexual Assault Evidence Grant-Backlog Reduction Program, supported by funds previously allocated by the Legislature, has a total of $1,814,000 in state funding for city and county agencies to facilitate the processing of sexual assault evidence. Grant funds are intended to help local agencies meet short-term goals by supplementing existing resources through a one-to-one state-to-local funds matching requirement. The grant period is July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2023, and funds can be used for eligible staff services activities and equipment and operating expenses. Examples of eligible sexual assault evidence processing activities covered under the grant include:
- The submission of evidence to a law enforcement agency or a testing lab; and
- DNA testing by a laboratory, including the uploading of an evidence DNA profile to the Combined DNA Index System by a crime lab.
DNA from sexual assault evidence is often a key factor in attaining justice for survivors of sexual assault. When tested, DNA evidence can be a powerful tool to solve and prevent crime by helping identify unknown offenders and linking multiple crimes to repeat offenders. As a result of Assembly Bill 41 of 2017, law enforcement agencies and crime laboratories are required to report on the status of all victim sexual assault evidence kits collected as of January 1, 2018 in the California Department of Justice’s Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Tracking (SAFE-T) database. SAFE-T is a statewide system that helps California track the collection and processing of victim sexual assault evidence kits. In California, 46 of the state’s 58 counties send their kits and other sexual assault evidence to the California Department of Justice’s crime laboratories for processing. The other 12 counties maintain their own local crime laboratories and process their own sexual assault evidence. Currently, the California Department of Justice does not have a backlog of sexual assault evidence. The Department remains committed to working with agencies across the state to reduce existing local backlogs of unprocessed sexual assault evidence. All city and county agencies across California are eligible for the matching grant announced today.
As part of the effort to address the challenge, the grant announced today is intended to help local jurisdictions process their outstanding sexual assault evidence backlogs. Each agency that receives a grant will be required to report on the total number of sexual assault evidence cases processed by a testing laboratory as a result of the grant. Additional information on application and eligibility requirements is available on the California Department of Justice’s website at: https://oag.ca.gov/usaeg-br.