Austin police are getting some help with cracking sex assault cases that have been put on the back-burner for years. New York and federal authorities say they will give nearly $80-million to test backlogged rape kits and hopefully bring perpetrators to justice.
Day after day, Emily Rudenick Leblanc is on the frontlines of consoling and helping victims of sex crimes.
“When there is a sexual assault and a survivor decides to get an exam, our nurses provide that exam and our advocates respond," said Leblanc, Director of Community Advocacy, Safe Place.
If the victim wishes, they respond by testing the victim for any DNA left from the perpetrator. They use a rape kit, however, there's a major problem with this system.
"If you were assaulted today, most likely there will be several months before that kit makes it through the DNA lab,” said Leblanc.
"It is a costly, intensive process," said Chief Art Acevedo, Austin Police Department.
To help with the issue, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice are stepping in. They will provide $79 million to police jurisdictions across the country.
The Austin Police Department will get nearly $2 million, The Travis County Sheriff's Office will receive close to $100,000.
"I really believe that we're going to find that some of those kits will lead to additional perpetrators or predators taken off the street," said Acevedo.
“It’ll hopefully identify some unknown perpetrators, confirm the presence of known perpetrators," said Leblanc.
Acevedo says overall there has been a decline of crime in Austin, but advocates say one assault is one too many.
"We see thousands of assaults in Austin-Travis County every year," said Leblanc.
She says it is exciting to see the federal government putting a huge problem at the top of their agenda.
"I think what's allowed the backlog is kind of a cultural belief that this wasn't that important of a crime, and we're trying to shift that in our culture," said Leblanc.
It’s a shift in culture and priorities that could bring criminals to justice
Leblanc says the money The Travis County Sheriff's Office will receive, is expected to cover all of the testing for their rape kits.