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Lake County Prosecutor's Office announces policy changes for rape kits

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter announces a policy changes for rape kits.

As advocates and public safety officials applaud Lake County's attempt to catch up on hundreds of untested rape kits, it’s impossible not to harbor utter disgust for how we got here.

It’s a problem allowed to fester by the very people who are supposed to be seeking justice against rapists.

Region law enforcement officials, including Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter, took to a podium at Highland's Wicker Park Wednesday to announce their plans for processing a backlog of nearly 240 rape kits in local law enforcement possession.

Rape kits include all the physical evidence collected from a victim after experiencing one of the most horrific violations imaginable.

Those horrible crimes for some 2,560 victims statewide were made even worse by law enforcement and prosecutorial inaction.

That intolerable figure was made public in a December state survey of law enforcement agencies and health care providers that found 2,560 rape kits, the potential keys to the pursuit of justice, never were submitted for laboratory testing.

About 240 of those untested kits were in the hands of Lake County authorities. Some of the kits date back a decade or more.

The lack of urgency, or even outright neglect, is a shameful mark on those who should have been seeking swift justice. It's also a contributing factor to a side of society that doesn't treat these cases with the intense gravity they deserve.

On Wednesday, Carter and others announced a county plan to end the backlog of untested cases, including plans to begin processing every non-anonymous rape kit generated on or after Jan. 1, 2008.

Kits performed before that date will be destroyed unless a survivor contacts Fair Haven, a rape crisis center, at 219-218-2552.

Any victory lap being run in the wake of the prescribed solutions should be tempered by shameful head-hanging.

And part of the prescribed solution should leave the Region wondering whether our justice system has learned its lesson regarding the urgency such cases should be afforded.

Carter said beginning this week, Lake County law enforcement agencies have been directed to pick up completed rape kits from hospitals within 72 hours of notification.

Every non-anonymous kit must be taken to the Indiana State Police crime lab for testing within 30 days of pickup.

Few among us would look at a 30-day timeline of processing evidence as a sign of urgency.

When egregious neglect of important matters occurs, society should demand urgent and immediate fixes.

Region authorities have devised and enacted plans to at least attempt to right this wrong.

Let's hope the shame of this exposed neglect is strong enough to compel the urgency of justice rape victims, and our entire society, deserve.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.