A “complete breakdown” in the system has led to the discovery of hundreds of rape kits languishing in New York City hospitals, potentially allowing rapists to roam free. The shocking revelation emerged when rape kits in dozens of active cases were found in hospital storage. The total number of released rape kits that should have been picked up by Special Victims Division (SVD) detectives may total several hundred, according to an anonymous NYPD source. A law enacted in December 2022 requires rape kits previously stored in hospitals to be moved to a centralized location in Albany. However, it was discovered that along with inactive evidence kits, released rape kits where victims wanted NYPD involvement were also left unattended.
A rape kit is collected at an emergency room during a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam, where bodily fluids and other evidence are collected. If a victim decides to release the kit to the police, it is supposed to be picked up by SVD detectives and sent to the NYPD lab for analysis. However, the neglected rape kits suggest that many cases were not fully investigated or analyzed, potentially allowing a serial rapist to remain at large.
The exact number of ignored active kits is unknown as a full audit of all 60 hospitals in the city has not been conducted. However, at Kings County Hospital and Mt. Sinai Hospital alone, up to 100 rape kits for active cases were not picked up by SVD over the past five years. This raises concerns about the extent of the problem across all hospitals in New York City.
Advocates emphasize the importance of rape kits in investigations, as they can help connect cases and identify serial rapists. The revelation of neglected rape kits highlights a breakdown in the system and raises questions about the status of these investigations.
The issue of neglected rape kits was brought to the attention of SVD Deputy Chief Carlos Ortiz and SVD attorney Kathleen Baer. Baer has been working to resolve the problem and has informed other city hospitals about the situation. The NYPD spokesperson stated that safeguards are being put in place to ensure no kits are left in hospital storage without permission for release to law enforcement.
These revelations come amidst a federal probe launched by the U.S. Department of Justice into allegations of gender-biased policing and failure to conduct basic investigatory steps by SVD officers. Former SVD Commander Chief Michael Osgood believes the neglected rape kits are evidence of deep structural flaws in the NYPD’s Detective Bureau.
The discovery of hundreds of neglected rape kits raises concerns about the potential for serial rapists to remain at large in New York City. The NYPD and hospital administrators are working to address the issue and ensure proper handling of rape kits in the future.