New Robbins mayor, police chief vow to work mishandled rape case - FOX 32 News Chicago

New Robbins mayor, police chief vow to work mishandled rape cases

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ROBBINS, Ill. (FOX 32 News) -

A massive overhaul for the Robbins police department is underway, after dozens of untested rape kits - some going back decades - were discovered sitting in an evidence locker this year.

These mistakes have let rapists go free. But now Robbins has a new police chief and new mayor, and they're promising to clean things up.

Rape kits are evidence in brutal crimes that can lead police to the attackers and put them behind bars. Last February the Cook County Sheriff's Office discovered 51 rape kits, which for some reason were never submitted to the state police crime lab to be processed.

The police department now has to figure out how to go ahead with prosecutions, whether there will be any way to prosecute the cases or whether the statute of limitations has expired.

Mayor Tyrone Ward and Police Chief Melvin Davis held a news conference in Robbins on Tuesday to update the status of the rape kits, and assure victims that their attackers will be brought to justice in the best way police can under the law.

"I just want to send a message to the victims," new police chief Davis said. "If there are any victims out there that need to address this police department or issues from the past, contact the Cook County Sheriff's Department or myself or my staff, and we will be more than willing, happy and able to answer any questions that you may have."

Top Cook County Sheriff's Office official Cara Smith also made a statement.

"When a victim does everything he or she can do, reports the crime, when the state crime lab does the job, that's the end of the road," Smith said. "It's the police department responsible for that case does nothing further, whether it was through lack of training or whatever the case may be, that victim still needs justice."

"We are hopeful that we will bring justice to these victims in whatever way we can," she added.

According to the Sheriff's Office, eight of the 51 submitted to the state crime lab did come back with matches in the DNA database of known offenders, matching people that are free today that apparently committed sex assault within the past 5-20 years. In other words, Robbins police would likely have made arrests had they ever bothered to submit the kits.

The problem the police department faces now is whether current law enforcement will be able to prosecute the cases with hits, since there is a statute of limitations on some of the crimes. Due to negligence on the part of former police department leadership, they should be able to start the clock over now, but prosecuting these rape cases could lead to the testing of legal theory.

Like many women in Robbins, Rosa Pickett was victimized twice -- first by a sexual predator and then by a police department that refused to do anything about it.

"That really angers me," Pickett says of the situation. "It irritates my spirit to know that...he could have committed several other rapes."

Meanwhile, Robbins officials released photos of the evidence locker, showing it has been cleaned and organized and a half-dozen new police brass have been hired to fix a broken department.

"We are making sure that all safeguards are put in place to prevent this type of incident from ever happening again," Police Chief Melvin Davis said.

Those are welcome words for victims like Rosa.

"I hope and pray the village has a wake-up call right here and they learn from this experience, and they hold to their word it never happens again," Pickett says.

Robbins officials are asking members of the public to come forward now, if they have any information about any of the 51 cases that were never handled properly.

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