BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s a new effort to help protect rape victims — keeping rape kits in storage longer. New legislation by Governor Andrew Cuomo would change the amount of time hospitals keep the kits.
“If a victim was to go to the hospital and doesn’t want to cooperate with police at that time, the hospital doesn’t necessarily turn over that rape kit to a local police department,” said Captain Jeff Rinaldo, with Buffalo Police.
Captain Jeff Rinaldo says it’s rare, but there are times when a victim of a sexual assault doesn’t want police involved. So local hospitals keep the rape kit, but only for 30 days. Rinaldo says that’s not enough time.
“It would be a shame in those cases where if that was the particular set of circumstances, a victim changes their mind, that the evidence of that assault would’ve been discarded,” said Rinaldo.
That’s why Governor Andrew Cuomo wants hospitals to store rape kits longer. He’s now proposing hospitals keep the kits for at least five years or until the victim turns 19, whichever option gives a victim the most amount of time to decide whether to report the incident to police.
“Any type of evidence of any type of crime especially a violent crime like a sexual assault is important or anyone in possession of that evidence for it to be retained as long as possible,” said Rinaldo.
Once a rape kit is collected, it’s sent to the Erie County Central Police Services Crime Lab for testing. After that, it’s sent back to the police department and put in a secure vault.
Rinaldo says police getting the evidence in a sexual assault case hasn’t been a problem. But he admits, this change could make it difficult for hospitals and staff.
“Hospitals aren’t in the business of storing evidence, so I can see where hospitals will now have to create policies around this type of evidence storage, cataloging, much like police departments do,” said Rinaldo.
This proposal would also require hospitals to let victims know when the rape kit is destroyed. Rinaldo says Buffalo police keeps rape kits in storage for an unlimited amount of time.