DETROIT — Cash-strapped Wayne County has identified $1 million in a delinquent tax fund that will allow prosecutors to investigate hundreds of remaining rape kits found six years ago in a Detroit police property storage facility.
The money will be allocated to the prosecutor's office 2015-16 budget after approval by county commissioners, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans announced Tuesday.
About 5,000 square feet of office space in the county's Guardian Building in downtown Detroit also will be set aside for investigators and members of the Sexual Assault Kit Task Force, Evans said.
The proposed allocation comes as the county continues its fiscal restructuring and efforts to cut expenses tied to a $52 million structural deficit. Gov. Rick Snyder confirmed over the summer that the county of 1.7 million residents was in a financial emergency.
"Finding these resources for the prosecutor was an important step in helping the victims of these assaults receive the justice they deserve," said Evans, a former Detroit police chief and Wayne County sheriff. "The investigative phase of this process is crucial in ensuring that the perpetrators who committed these crimes are off the streets and not further terrorizing our communities."
More than 10,000 of the 11,341 kits found in 2009 have been tested. Some of the sexual assaults occurred as far back as 1984. State police conducted forensic testing on the kits.
Nearly 550 suspected serial sexual offenders have been identified, but more than 1,600 kits still have to be investigated.
The county funds will add to the 149 cases under active investigation.
Federal grants paid for the testing of the first 2,000 kits. The state then chipped in $4 million to test 8,000 kits and $3 million to the Attorney General's office to help in prosecutions.
Groups also have been helping raise $10 million from private donors and nonprofit organizations.
On Tuesday, Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Evans "has been instrumental in committing resources to this cause."
"He understands that prosecuting and convicting these criminals enhances the safety of citizens all over Wayne County," Worthy added.
Worthy has become a national voice in efforts to have untested rape kits tested and investigated as police and prosecutors struggle to find funding.
Vice President Joe Biden and other officials announced in September that an estimated 70,000 kits across the country will be tested with a combined $79 million in federal and New York City funds designed to cut the backlog of untested DNA evidence in 27 states.