Crime-sceneSupporters of a bill that advanced in legislature this week hope to discover how many untested rape kits may be stuck in storage in Iowa police departments.

Nationwide, authorities are discovering thousands of untested kits, which contain evidence collected after someone reports a sexual assault. Robert Hamill, an administrator in the Iowa attorney general’s crime victim assistance division, says testing some kits may result in new prosecutions.

“Once we know how many kits there are that are untested and where they are located, then the multi-disciplinary team will determine a testing strategy, taking into consideration all of the reasons why a kit may not have been tested,” he says, “when the kit was taken compared to when the statute of limitations expires.”

The Des Moines Police Department has already identified more than 800 untested rape kits. Hamill says they hope to develop better standards that let Iowa law enforcement officials know when a kit should be tested.

“Increase understanding at the law enforcement level, make sure victims are engaged in the process and that their needs and desires are taken into consideration as well,” Hamill says.

The bill would require all law enforcement agencies to participate in an electronic survey, to try to find out how many rape kits have been untested. The bill cleared a House committee this week on a unanimous vote and awaits debate in the full House. The state has received a $2 million federal grant to find out the extent of the problem and conduct tests on the rape kits that are found in storage.