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Maryland police departments destroyed 270 rape kits over the last two years

Maryland police departments destroyed 270 rape kits over the past two years, according to new data released by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.

After the Maryland General Assembly passed tough restrictions in 2017 blocking the destruction of most rape kits, many of the state’s law enforcement agencies ― 43 of 61 ― stopped destroying rape kits altogether, the data show.

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The Baltimore Police Department, Anne Arundel County Police Department and Howard County Police Department, for example, destroyed no rape kits from July 1 of 2017 to June 30 of 2019.

But others have destroyed dozens.

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The Harford County Sheriff’s Office destroyed 87 rape kits over the past two years, while the Frederick Police Department destroyed 84 and the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office destroyed 26, according to the Attorney General’s report.

Cristie A. Hopkins, spokeswoman for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, which destroyed the most kits in the state over the past two years, said deputies have complied with the new law.

“I cannot answer why the number of destroyed kits by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office would be higher than other jurisdiction’s numbers, as I do not know what their process is for determining what to destroy or transfer custody,” Hopkins wrote in an email. "At the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, we make determinations on the handling of kits in accordance with the statute passed in 2017 and guidance set forth from the Office of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.”

She noted the Attorney General’s new report includes several months of data from before the new state law took effect.

Lawmakers who have worked on the issue said they were surprised to see hundreds of kits destroyed in the past two years.

Baltimore County Del. Shelly Hettleman, a Democrat, sponsored legislation in 2017 to ban the destruction of rape kits with the rare exceptions for cases where all suspects are known to be dead or the suspect already has been convicted and served his full term in prison.

“The law is pretty clear that there should have been no kits destroyed as of Oct. 1, 2017," Hettleman said. “The law requires that law enforcement hold onto those kits for at least 20 years.”

Of the hundreds of kits destroyed, she said: “That’s really concerning and really problematic.”

Anne Arundel County Sen. Sarah Elfreth, a Democrat, called the data “heartbreaking.”

“I anticipate some brutal discussions ahead in the pursuit of answers,” she said. “It is incredibly disheartening to see that victims sought justice and our government failed them."

Maryland legislators have dedicated $3.5 million to help police around the state process thousands of rape kits that have sat untested in storage.

At last count in 2018, 10 of Maryland’s largest police departments reported possessing more than 6,500 untested kits, according to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.

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