AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo is now one of five pilot locations for a new state initiative–allowing survivors of sexual assault to electronically track the evidence in their cases.
As of Monday, the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking System is up and running here in Amarillo. The system’s rollout means survivors of sexual assault won’t have to wonder if authorities are working on their cases.
The program was made possible by House Bill 281, which was passed back in 2017.
Amarillo police are working with DPS, which will oversee the sexual assault evidence tracking program statewide.
The law requires the system to track the status and location of each item of evidence through various stages of the criminal justice process.
Survivors of sexual assault will then be given access to a portal to track the progress of their rape test kit.
“The timeline may not be what they want it to be or what think it should be, but they know where it’s at and they can contact whoever–whichever agency has it and say, ‘Hey I have questions. Can you answer these questions,’ and so that also gives them a little bit more power in their case,” said Sgt. Carla Burr with APD.
Sgt. Burr said APD submits all evidence from rape test kits within 14 days. She believes the system will boost transparency between law enforcement and survivors of sexual assault.
“The tracking system can perhaps bring some level of closure simply with the information that this is being followed through,” said Kathy Tortoreo, director of crisis services for Family Support Services.
Tortoreo said they coordinate closely with law enforcement to provide services for survivors. She told us the tracking system will greatly benefit survivors–whether their cases move forward or not.
“It gives our advocates the opportunity to continue to support that person one way or the other. The not knowing is sometimes the most frustrating or the most frightening or the most overwhelming. It’s going to give them information and that can assist in moving forward to the healing process,” said Tortoreo.
The Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking System will be implemented statewide September 1–as required by the law.
Sgt. Burr said APD does not have a backlog of rape kits waiting to be tested.