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Maricopa County gets $3M to solve cold cases, test rape kits

The U.S. Department of Justice has allocated funds to test DNA evidence related to unsolved crimes in Maricopa County.

PHOENIX — Federal officials have allocated $3 million to help Maricopa County's prosecutors process DNA evidence taken from unsolved crimes. 

The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded two grants to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office that will provide financial support for resolving cold cases and crimes involving sexual assault. 

About $500,000 of the allotment will be dedicated to testing evidence taken from unsolved violent crimes and creating a countywide database of cold cases.  

The remaining $2.5 million will fund additional testing for DNA evidence collected through sexual assault kits. 

Maricopa County, like many other parts of the nation, has been trying to clear a large backlog of kits that have gone years without getting tested.

In 2016, a statewide task force estimated Arizona as having a backlog of 6,400 untested rape kits, according to the Arizona Republic.

The state has been getting funding over the last few years to test more kits. In 2017, MCAO released a sexual assault protocol that requires law enforcement to submit an evidence kit to a crime laboratory within at least 15 business days.

MCAO officials said the recent DOJ grants will offer some new opportunities for solving Arizona's cold cases.  

“This is the first time our office has been awarded this grant. Our goal is to increase the number of successful prosecutions of cold cases throughout our county and provide closure to the victims of violent crimes,” said Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel.

The grants will additionally support the hiring of more detectives and crime analysts within the agency who will assist law enforcement with investigating sex crimes. 

RELATED: Could a new DNA tool be used to reignite cold cases?

RELATED: Phoenix police make arrest in sexual assault, murder case from 1987

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