DETROIT -- More than 1,000 once-forgotten rape kits that were part of a trove found in a Detroit police property storage facility are expected to be reviewed and possibly tested for DNA in crimes dating to the 1980s, a state police official said Wednesday.
DNA found in the kits that doesn't belong to rape victims will be loaded into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System – or CODIS – to search for matches that could lead to arrests, State Police Director of Forensic Science John Collins told The Associated Press.
"We've identified a sample set of kits. We're expecting next week for this wave of kits – in the low thousands – to come in," Collins said.
The rape kits are about half the size of a small pizza box. They contain documentation, supplies for technicians, swabs and other items to collect samples. They are part of more than 11,000 found in 2009. Nearly 10,000 rape kits still await possible review.
"We are moving at a pace that allows us to make decisions as smart as possible, but at the same time doing our due diligence," Collins said. "Our lab system takes in between 1,500 to 2,000 rape kits a year. We have victims being victimized today that we want to be able to respond to."
State police, Detroit police, the Wayne County prosecutor's office and researchers at Michigan State University are reviewing the Detroit rape kit cases to determine which ones could result in charges. An outside lab will do the testing.
The first sampling included 400 kits selected at random in 2010.
DNA from the Detroit kits will be run against other current DNA samples in CODIS, Collins said.
"It stays in there until someone is arrested and there is a hit," Collins said. "We will identify perpetrators."
The challenge then falls to prosecutors to build cases from evidence that could be more than two decades old, he added.
"When the accumulation of rape kits was discovered, no one knew what the disposition of the kits were," Collins said. "You had this big bulk of evidence. These go back into the 1980s. It reaches back into a period of time when DNA testing was not very prolific."
The state police took over the Detroit crime lab in 2008 after it was determined that firearms cases had been improperly handled. A year later, boxes of the kits were found during an inspection.
The goal is to create a national protocol to address the problem, not only in Detroit, but in many major U.S. cities, Prosecutor Kym Worthy said.
"We owe rape victims no less than to make sure that sexual assault kit evidence is handled appropriately," she said.