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INDIANAPOLIS — In the basement property room of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, there are more than 5,000 untested rape kits sitting on shelves waiting to reveal the secrets of attackers long forgotten by everyone but their victims.

“We are very close to having our inventory completed,” said Jane French, coordinator of the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. “The kits go back to approximately the year 2000.”

Though a $1.4 million federal grant to tackle Indianapolis’ untested rape kit back log was announced in December of 2019, it’s taken the city this long to hire French and most of this year for her to assemble the staff and resources to begin testing those dust-gathering kits.

“There was a percentage of them that were tested with old technology,” said French, who also cited variances in police data gathering systems and weaknesses in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s DNA identification system, which has led to a crisis of untested rape kits nationwide.

French said conversations are going on right now between investigators, prosecutors and staff to determine which kits will be prioritized for testing.

“Shall we do the oldest cases first? Should we do the newest cases first that would have the most information in them and the most opportunity to have a link with CODIS (the FBI data base)? Should we do the children victims first?”

While the grant has more than two years to run, French does not expect that all 5,000-plus untested kits will be examined, though she does expect some new cases to be filed on old crimes.

“It is beginning to be revealed through the research of all of these grantees that these rapists do not do this one time,” she explained, “and a number of them start out with lesser crimes and move up the violence chain to do this type of crime.”

French said Indiana’s statute of limitations allows prosecutors to charge suspects up to five years after the testing process begins, no matter the passage of time since the assault occurred.

It is expected that the technician hired under the federal grant will also run tests on current rape kits to alleviate any future backlog crisis.

“We want to support these victims in recovery,” said French. “This is going to be challenging to contact them after a number of years.”