DES MOINES — After a recent survey found thousands of sexual assault evidence kits were left untested in Iowa, the state is launching a plan to keep close track of such rape kits in the future.

Lynn Hicks, communications director for the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, says a sample-tracking software company is being hired to roll out its Track-Kit system to all regions of the state by mid-2020.

Hicks says, “Basically, it will follow the rape kits from the time a kit is at the medical facility or hospital and used in an exam, and then all the way through the final disposition of the case.”

According to Hicks, the system will connect more than 1,200 users at Iowa medical facilities, law enforcement agencies, crime laboratories, and county attorney’s offices.

“Most important, it will allow that sexual assault survivor to be able to get information on the status and location of the kit,” Hicks says, “so they would be able to follow it throughout the process.”

A survey in 2017 by the Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division found more than 4,200 untested rape kits in police departments and sheriff’s offices across Iowa. Efforts are being made, Hicks says, to tackle that backlog, but the new tracking system is also crucial.

“We think this is going to be a big step forward,” Hicks says. “This software will increase the accountability and transparency throughout the process and ultimately will empower survivors of sexual assault.”

Of the 4,200 untested rape kits found statewide, more than 1,600 have been sent to private labs for testing. From those, Hicks says 235 DNA profiles have been entered into CODIS, the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System. Of those, 127 were hits, or matches to DNA in the database, enabling the information to be forwarded on to prosecutors.