Survivors of sexual assault and law enforcement officials will soon be able to track and receive updates on evidence regarding their cases.
The Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking Program was created by the Crime Laboratory Service after the 85th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 281 requiring the Texas Department of Public Safety to develop and implement a statewide electronic tracking system for evidence collected in cases involving sexual assault or other sex offenses, according to DPS. The program will be implemented on Sept. 1.
The system tracks the status and location of each item of evidence through various stages of the criminal justice process, allow entities involved in the handling of the evidence to update and track the status and location of evidence and allow survivors to anonymously track or receive updates on the status of evidence, according to DPS. Participation in the tracking system is required by any entity that collects evidence of sexual assault or other sex offenses or investigates or prosecutes such offenses.
Weatherford Police Chief Lance Arnold said the new tool has the opportunity to benefit victims and officers by offering an easier way to track cases.
“It definitely increases accountability for law enforcement agencies, for laboratories, for prosecutors,” Arnold said. “It really I think gives some tools and power of information to the victims, so that they can see exactly where something is. It provides some tracking for that.”
If evidence is not sent to the lab, victims will be able to see that on the system and find out why, Arnold said.
“You’ve seen these stories where, even in our own state, where there was a backlog or where cases, kits simply weren’t sent to the lab, and in some cases there was valid reasons but in some of these ones that made the news, there didn’t seem to be a lot of real valid reasons why that occurred,” Arnold said. “It’s just one of those things that slipped through the cracks. I think this helps prevent that.”
WPD officers have been trained on the new program, Arnold said. The new program creates a minimal amount of extra work for officers.
Weatherford Democrat reporter Madelyn Edwards contributed to this story.