TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Justice is closer for more victims of sex assault in Arizona.

Three years ago there were more than 6,000 rape kits untested around Arizona, 4,600 of those were in Maricopa County.

[WATCH: Number of untested rape kits drops significantly in Maricopa County]

Most of the kits were from victims who knew their attacker, so they weren't rushed off to testing and sometimes sat on evidence room shelves for decades.

Now that number is getting smaller every day thanks to a recent push to get through all of them.

More than $6 million in grant money has been given over the last several years to the County and its various police agencies to expedite the process.

There are now just 300 kits left to test in Maricopa County.

"I meet with each victim individually," said Det. Greg Bacon.

As a sex crimes investigator with the Tempe Police Department, Bacon knows behind every rape kit is a victim.

"I think the issue No. 1 was making sure the victims' voices were heard," said Bacon.

Just three years ago, the Tempe Police Department had a backlog of 500 kits, some waiting since the 1970s.

But thanks to grant money given to Maricopa County and police departments here, Tempe police have officially finished testing all of theirs.

"It’s that big piece that the victim's voice was heard and that the investigation now continues. Now that the kits are being tested, there's possible prosecution that can come down the road from that,” said Bacon.

Most of the kits are being sent out of state to private labs for testing. All of the results are then put in the national database. Prosecution has come from all this testing.

Rachel Mitchell, Special Victims Division chief with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, says the push to get through the backlog has led to the arrest of 14 suspects around the county.

"Those cases without this testing would not have been made,” said Mitchell.

One of those suspects was Nur Muktar, whose DNA was discovered in one of Tempe’s rape kits years later.

Already in prison, Muktar pleaded guilty to seven additional years in prison.

“Even though 14 doesn't seem like a big number, if you're one of the 14 victims, it's huge that we can take that off of their shoulders and say, 'We know who did it,' and we can get justice for them,” said Mitchell.

Like Tempe, both Mesa and Glendale Police Departments says they too have  no more sex assault kits awaiting testing.

 As the state's largest department, Phoenix Police had a backlog of 2400 untested kits back in 2017. It how has just 200 left. 

As for the remaining 100 kits, they are from various other departments within the county. Mitchell thinks they'll all be finished by the end of the year. This news is to the relief of detectives like Bacon who know what that will mean for victims everywhere.

"Yeah it’s a good feeling,” said Bacon.

Mitchell says the grants have also helped to hire three full-time investigators and a victim advocate for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. It also helped implement a standardized protocol for agencies around the county so they can treat sex crimes cases more efficiently.

 


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

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