There are likely thousands of suspected rapists roaming free in Cuyahoga County as a government task force works to investigate a backlog of rape kit cases.
"We are prioritizing these cases," said Brett Kyker, program manager of the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force. "We're getting to them as quickly as we can, and we're trying to identify the most dangerous people and get them off the streets. Public safety is our number one concern."
The task force began three years ago, charged with eliminating the stockpile of nearly 5,000 untested rape kits in the county and prosecuting the predators. But over the last three years, the task force has more than doubled in size, and the number of rape cases it is investigating has piled up.
"It's an issue of manpower," Kyker added. "We're dealing the best that we can, and we think we're doing a pretty good job."
Kyker added that it takes a considerably longer period of time to investigate each rape case than to test the rape kit. And with each case, some of which date back to the 1990's, investigators must find the victim, suspect and witnesses.
"In some cases, we're able to find a victim, a suspect or a witness right away," he added. "In other cases, we're spending months trying to locate these parties."
The task force is also facing the possibility that it could lose six investigators this summer as state grant money runs out. Also this summer, the testing of all rape kits in Cuyahoga County is expected to be complete. The task force plans to finish all of its investigations by 2018.