The Office of Gov. Andy Beshear announced recently that it would use federal grant funding to form the Kentucky State Police Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Investigative Team.

The purpose is to help maximize resources and provide necessary services to survivors of sexual assault.

Kentucky was awarded $1.5 million to form the investigative team by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Megan Gross, New Beginnings sexual assault support services advocacy coordinator, said the formation of a specialized team will further the efforts KSP has already made in recent years to clear backlogged cases and get justice for survivors of sexual assault.

“I do think it’ll make a difference,” she said. “Having a team dedicated to these cold cases is helpful in general just because law enforcement across the board just has so much going on. They’ve got so many active cases going on now that trying to deal with cold cases on top of that, I can imagine it just kind of felt like an impossible task. Now that we do have a designated team to help in these cold cases, I think it’s going to help hopefully get some of these victims some justice.”

The investigative team will include three trained investigators and a criminal intelligence analyst from the Office of the Attorney General that will work to assist the KSP.

The team will focus on investigating and identifying sexual offenders and will add to existing resources within the KSP Crime Lab, statewide investigative jurisdiction and local law enforcement agencies.

The efforts, according to Beshear, will help identify more offenders and link cases of serial predators.

“Kentucky has made outstanding progress in testing backlogged SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Exams) kits and closing unsolved crimes due to the tireless efforts of several state and local officials who were instrumental in changing the culture around the investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults,” said KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. in the announcement. “Our investigators will be informed, effective and compassionate toward sexual assault victims and help them as they work to truly heal, recover and restore their lives.”

Gross said efforts in recent years by the state to put more procedures and funding in place to pursue cases of sexual assault have helped decrease the backlog of untested SAFE kits and have them put into a central database to better assist investigators in identifying perpetrators and linking cases.

“I think just the willingness of KSP to put this much effort and funding into testing all of these old kits just really goes to show survivors now that if you come forward, we’ve got things in place where we’ll get DNA tested; we’ll do everything we can to get justice for you,” she said.

Christie Netherton, cnetherton@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7360

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