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Process Sexual Assault Evidence Kit: Reduce Backlog

Every 62 seconds, an American is subjected to sexual assault (source: Rainn Statistics). Yet only few cases are solved because of the backlogs of untested sexual assault kits. Processing these kits will bring justice for victims. In order to reduce the backlog of SAEKs some states are outsourcing this work to the third party laboratories to run the tests manually. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.

The problem of Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Backlog

When sexual assault kits are not processed it allows criminals to be free and an opportunity to commit more crimes. . With information in the database identification because straightforward. Getting SAEK genetic data quickly can catch criminals and prevent future assaults. (Source: National Institute of Justice)

Since 2010, the Joyful Heart Foundation collaborated with federal, state and local governments of USA to initiate “end the backlog movement” to eliminate the backlogs of untested rape kits all over the United States (Source: End the Backlog). Moreover, the organization partnered with Jurisdictions nationwide and was succeeded to secure the funding necessary to reduce the pending sexual assault kit processing (Source: Joyful Heart Foundation).

Forensic Differential Digestion

Automation can process SAEK, reducing backlogs

To reduce backlogs, we must introduce new technology which can increase the throughput and provide consistently accurate results. From the problems highlighted above, it is clear forensic departments. Aurora Biomed Inc. is a leading Biotech company provide an automation solution (VERSA 1100) for processing the sexual assault evidence kits. Evidence from sexual assault cases often is a mixture of DNA from both male and female. To successfully separate the DNA profiles, the victim’s non sperm cellular material must be separated from the male DNA through a process called as differential digestion (DD). VERSA 1100 plays an important role in the process of differential digestion without compromising the quantity and quality of the recovered DNA. With the increase demand for casework per analyst and reduced turnaround time, many laboratories will find that automation of DD process will aid in the reduction of sexual assault evidence kit backlogs.

The VERSA1100 has already been implemented in a number of labs to process sexual assault kits. Here are two case studies about the implementation of automating SAEK processing.

differential digestion a process for male screening in forensic labs to process SAEK and reduce backlogs through automation
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Case Study: Oakland Police Department Criminalist Laboratory

The Oakland Police Department Criminalist Laboratory published a validation report of differential digestion protocol on VERSA 1100. They reported comparable DNA yield and STR DNA typing data of samples processed with automated and conventional method of differential digestion. Moreover, there was no contamination with the use of VERSA 1100 and the process took about six fold less time as compared to manual handling. This was a game changer for Oakland Police Department Criminalistics Laboratory’s sexual assault kit backlog.

“After Contra Coasta County implemented VERSA 1100, they were able to reduce their backlog to zero.”

Case Study: Deputy Sheriff Forensic Supervisor of Contra Costa County

Deputy Sheriff Forensic Supervisor of Contra Costa County shared his experience with the traditional and automation processing of differential digestion procedure. He mention that the screening and DNA testing on sexual assault evidence kit (SAEK) items was often times a labor-intensive process. This caused an accumulation of backlogs in the lab. The concern was raised when the new legislation from the State of California came which stated “all the SAEK kits should be processed within the 120 days of sample collection”. That’s when they discovered a robotic option “Aurora Biomed’s VERSA 1100” automated liquid handler. After Contra Coasta County implemented VERSA 1100, they were able to reduce their backlog to zero.

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