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‘Suspect kits’ will lead to more rape convictions

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on hand at North Central Bronx Hospital to announce new ‘suspect’ kits that will lead to a stronger rate of convictions in sexual assault cases.

The press conference, held at the hospital on Monday, July 14, also announced a new ambulance protocol that will bring sexual assault victims to one of 11 City hospitals with Sexual Assault Response Teams or eight voluntary hospitals with an equivalent sexual assault program known as SAFE.

In the past, emergency medical service personnel took victims of rape to the nearest emergency room, but the new protocol took effect on June 8. City EMT’s saw around 700 victims of sexual assault last year.

“We’re giving criminal instigators an important new tool in building sexual assault cases,” said Bloomberg. “In these cases, police typically gather evidence from crime scenes and from bodies of crime victims. Now, we’ll also be able to obtain evidence from a third crime scene, the alleged sexual assailants themselves.”

Bloomberg touted that 90% of sexual assault victims receive a rape kit within their first hour in a city hospital, since his administration launched the SART program in February 2004.

“The suspect kits, the ambulance protocol, build on six and a half years of success in reducing the threat of sexual assault in our City, and in helping victims recover from these terrible crimes,” Bloomberg continued.

  The services provided by SART teams include expert evidence collection, professional medical care, and advice about bringing criminal charges against attackers.

The new suspect kit creates a standard procedure for the collection of valuable evidence that a suspect apprehended after a sexual assault may have on his or her body.

This evidence could include bite marks, bruises, DNA, or distinctive marks that could be used to corroborate descriptions. Many of these pieces of evidence could disappear if not collected shortly after the sexual assault.

The evidence will be collected with the consent of the suspect or with a court order that specifies the types of evidence to be collected.

 At the announcement, at North Central Bronx Hospital, the mayor was joined by Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt, Health and Hospitals Corporation President Alan Aviles, FDNY Chief of Department Salvatore Cassano, NYPD Special Victims Unit commanding officer Inspector Theresa Shortell, Harriet Lessel, the executive director of the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault, and Karen Carol of NCBH.    

The suspect kits will function in much the same way as rape kits do for victims. To protect victims, suspects will be taken to separate hospitals for collection of hair and body fluid residue.

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