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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2013, file photo, Missouri Sen. Eric Schmitt, leads a meeting at the Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo. (Kile Brewer/The Jefferson City News-Tribune File)

Untested sexual assault kits from several Mid-Missouri police departments, such as Jefferson City and Holts Summit, have been sent off for testing.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Thursday the fourth round of untested kits identified in the SAFE Kits Initiative inventory have been sent for testing.

The kits were gathered at the Columbia Police Department as a host agency from neighboring agencies to protect the chain of custody and streamline the process, according to a news release from Schmitt's office.

Untested sexual assault kits were gathered from other Mid-Missouri law enforcement agencies such as the Jefferson City Police Department, Cole County Sheriff's Department, Ashland Police Department and Fulton Police Department.

A total 18 law enforcement agencies sent 160 kits to the lab.

The SAFE Kits Initiative is using a private lab to ensure kits are tested expeditiously and to not overwhelm the Missouri Highway Patrol crime lab in Jefferson City with a large influx of kits.

Schmitt launched the SAFE Kits Initiative, funded by a grant administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, in January 2019 to inventory all untested sexual assault kits in the backlog, create an electronic tracking system, and send those identified kits to a lab for forensic testing and potentially eventual prosecution.

The results of the inventory were announced in November 2019 and compiled into a report that stated there were more than 6,800 untested sexual assault kits sitting in a backlog across Missouri.

There were 146 untested kits reported in Cole County, according to the attorney general's report. There were five unreported test kits.

A "reported" untested kit means the victim has agreed to participate in the criminal justice system by filing a police report and initiating a criminal investigation, according to the attorney general's report. An "unreported" untested kit means the victim has not filed a police report. It is a national best practice to not test unreported kits in keeping with victims' wishes.

The Jefferson City Police Department had 55 reported untested kits and two unreported untested kits.

The Cole County Sheriff's Department had 19 reported untested kits and no unreported untested kits.

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