City Council Looks To Get Funding To Process Sexual Assault Kits

The Omaha City Council is looking to be accepted for a nearly $2 million grant to clear out a large section of the police department's evidence room. The $1.9 million would be used to process kits submitted by victims of sexual assault.

Of those who are sexually assaulted, four out of five will never file a report and for those who do file a report, have to subject themselves to medical testing.

Omaha Police have nearly 1,500 unprocessed sexual assault kits and Lt. Tracy Scherer with the OPD Special Victims Unit tells 6 News that some date back decades. "Statutorily, we had to hold onto these kits, but that's a fortunate thing because now we get to go back and look at those with a new set of eyes and a new set of best practices."

Elizabeth Power with the Women's Center for Advancement says the DNA in those kits holds valuable information that may help law enforcement. "We really want that DNA information from those kits to put into our federal database so that we can identify serial perpetrators that have maybe assaulted other people in other states and to bring justice to those cases and get those people off the streets."

The reason these kits have been processed sooner? Because testing the kits is expensive and time consuming.

The Women's Center for Advancement, the county attorney's office and state crime lab will be deeply involved in processing the kits and contacting and working with victims, many of whom thought their case was forgotten. "And hopefully clear those up and clear them up in a better way for everybody involved, including the victim," Scherer said.

Power says they hope to hold those responsible for assaults accountable. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure that those people are dealing with what they did."

Omaha is one of several communities applying for the grant money. The funds run for three years and will add paid positions to help process the kits.

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