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Michigan State Police Create Rape Kit Testing Unit

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - Michigan State Police hope to solve rapes in Metro Detroit more quickly when they open a lab to handle rape kits this summer.

John Collins, MSP Director of Forensic Science, said the unit will be located at its Northville Crime Lab.

"I think one of the things that a lot of people don't realize, particularly those that watch the CSI shows and the crime shows is just how vicious and what a violation sexual assault is to the victims. You cannot over emphasize it," said Collins.

Collins said the new unit will allow them to process evidence more quickly from rape kits, since they are currently processed along with a variety of different kinds of DNA evidence.

Since 2009, the MSP has been assisting the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office with their efforts to improve the overall response to sexual assaults. The MSP's new Sexual Assault Response Unit will play an important role in this effort by facilitating unprecedented communication between laboratory staff and the specially trained sexual assault nurses who collect evidence from victims.

"We're very grateful to Prosecutor Worthy has let us participate in this process because we've really learned from it and so I think that the idea that emerged to develop this specialized unit really came from what we learned in participating on that team," said Collins.

The kits -- 10-inch-long boxes containing swabs, evidence envelopes and information sheets detailing the examination, complications and a list of 24-hour rape crisis centers -- can cost $1,200 to $1,500 to test.

"There are some emerging technologies and methods that will accelerate the production of this unit in the coming months and years," said Collins.

Sexual assault kits are processed by the Michigan State Police laboratories for all law enforcement agencies throughout Michigan.

Collins said the new unit in Northville will assist in managing the high volume of cases originating in Southeastern Michigan. The benefits of this improved efficiency, however, are expected to have positive implications for all sexual assault victims in Michigan, he said.

Between 9,000 and 11,300 rape kits stored by Detroit police were collected two years ago by the state police.

The kits are being documented and tested in batches as part of a National Institute for Justice project. Initially, about 400 were chosen. Earlier this year, another batch of about 1,000 was identified for testing. The Wayne County prosecutor's office and a Michigan State University researcher also are involved in the project.

Read more about the Detroit rape kit testing project, here.

TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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