Spotsylvania County Sheriff Roger Harris will be representing the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association on the steering committee charged with implementing the testing of more than 2,000 untested sexual assault evidence kits.
The Commonwealth received a $1.4 million grant last month to conduct DNA testing and analyze 2,034 untested Physical Evidence Recovery Kits (PERKs) associated with sexual assaults in Virginia. By testing these kits and searching the profiles against DNA databases, law enforcement will be able to identify additional crimes by known perpetrators and make connections between crimes committed by unidentified perpetrators. Attorney General Herring partnered with the Department of Forensic Science (DFS) to apply for the grant in June.
“I applaud the Commonwealth’s efforts to ensure justice for sexual violence survivors and am proud to represent my fellow sheriffs across Virginia in this crucial effort,” said Sheriff Harris.
PERKs contain evidence collected from victims during an extensive examination conducted at a hospital or crisis center following a sexual assault. The DNA evidence contained in PERKs is a powerful tool for identifying suspects, convicting perpetrators, preventing future offenses, and even exonerating the innocent. DNA from a PERK in one jurisdiction may help to solve crimes in that jurisdiction, and in other jurisdictions across the country.
In cases where a suspect has not yet been identified, biological evidence can be analyzed and compared to offender profiles in DNA databases, such as the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), to help identify the perpetrator. Crime scene evidence can also be linked to other crime scenes through the use of DNA databases to identify serial offenders, and arrests for lower-level crimes in one state might help solve a cold case in another state.