The Obama administration announced Thursday its teaming up with the New York City district attorney on a $79 million effort to speed testing of sexual assault evidence kits.
The federal government will kick in $41 million in grants while New York will provide $38 million to clear a backlog of untested kits in 27 states.
“When we solve these cases, we get rapists off the streets,” Vice President Biden said in a statement. “The grants we’re announcing today to reduce the national rape kit backlog will bring that sense of closure and safety to victims while improving community safety.”
Biden is announcing the new funding at an event at the New York City medical examiner’s office alongside Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.
Biden and other officials toured a New York crime lab with "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" actress Mariska Hargitay before delivering speeches.
Biden got chuckles from the audience during his remarks in New York when speaking of Hargitay, saying, "in the new season she's a lieutenant now."
"There's so much more we should be doing beyond rape kits to protect women in America – don't give up hope," Biden told those in attendance after praising rape victims for speaking up.
Biden also spoke of his late son former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden's effort on reforming the statute of limitations for reporting rape in his state.
Hundreds of thousands of evidence kits have gone untested by police departments across the country. Biden claimed 50 percent of previously unsolved rapes are solved when the kits are tested.
The event was part of a busy day for Biden in New York City, where he is testing his message for a possible presidential run.
He will also participate in rally with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) calling for a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers in the Empire State, appear on the “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and headline a fundraiser for Senate Democrats.
The rape kit backlog is a major issue for law enforcement and women’s groups.