WILKES-BARRE — Auditor General Eugene DePasquale this week commended a statewide police accreditation commission for following a recommendation from his 2016 special report on untested rape kits.
The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association’s Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Program commissioners now mandates that local law enforcement agencies must comply with the requirements of the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act (Act 27 of 2015) to qualify for accreditation.
“The commissioners’ action is exactly what I recommended in my September 2016 special report,” DePasquale said. “I could not be more pleased. Following my recommendations is one important way we can help rape victims find justice.”
To receive accreditation or re-accreditation, agencies must:
• Pick up all rape kits in their jurisdiction within 72 hours.
• Properly store kits that have not yet received consent for testing for up to two years.
• Send kits that have received consent for testing to be tested within 15 days.
• Annually report its number of backlogged rape kits to the Department of Health.
DePasquale pointed out that this is not the first recommendation from the report that has been followed: DOH established a memorandum of understanding with Pennsylvania State Police to gather annual backlog data, fulfilling the recommendation for DOH to work more closely with law enforcement associations such as PSP to establish effective communication of Act 27’s requirements. The result was a 108 percent increase in compliance with Act 27’s reporting requirement.
“Now it is time for the General Assembly to step up,” DePasquale said. “The state’s three public crime labs are hurting tremendously for enough resources to handle their caseloads.
“These labs must have additional funding so that they can have enough staff and sufficient technological equipment to make sure these kits are tested in a timely manner,” DePasquale continued. “It’s budget season. Let’s talk about finding at least $1.5 million to help clear the backlog and discuss what’s needed to prevent another from occurring.”
DePasquale recently sent letters to all state auditors nationwide encouraging them to become involved in their states’ efforts to ascertain the size of their backlog of untested rape kits and determine what resources are needed to ensure timely testing of those kits.
PennDOT to phase in
newly designed driver
licenses, ID cards
As part of ongoing security enhancements, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has updated the design and enhanced the security features of its driver license and identification card products.
PennDOT entered a new contract with MorphoTrust USA in August of 2015 for the design and issuance of Driver License and ID cards. Since then, PennDOT has worked with MorphoTrust USA on planning, design and deployment of this major new security enhancement initiative. This update is unrelated to the REAL ID Act.
“The update is an important component of PennDOT’s ongoing work to enhance and protect the integrity of the driver license and identification card issuance process,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards.
PennDOT began a pilot of the new products beginning on June 19 at the Riverfront Office Center location in Harrisburg. All Driver and Photo centers will transition to the new products by the end of October 2017. The new products will be phased in over the next four-year renewal cycle and will replace existing products. Both current and new card designs will be in circulation during the transition period.
The new cards are not REAL ID-compliant. System, building infrastructure and process changes will be necessary for Pennsylvania to issue REAL ID-compliant products. PennDOT anticipates that REAL ID-compliant driver licenses and identification cards will be available at customer’s option in 2019.
The cards look very different, but they also have additional enhanced security features, which improve fraud prevention and protect from counterfeiting and alteration.
Some of the enhanced features include:
• Larger primary portrait and smaller ghost portrait.
• 2D bar code, which contains data from the front of the card unique to the cardholder.
• Laser perforation — The keystone outline with “PA” is embedded into the card stock and can be observed by holding the card up to any light source.
• Laminate — Each card is laminated with an optically-variable pattern with the state motto, “Virtue, Liberty, Independence,” Keystone outline and “1787,” the year when the U.S. Constitution was ratified by Pennsylvania.
In addition to the above changes, the magnetic strip has been eliminated on the back of the newly designed driver’s license and identification cards.
For more information and to see an image of the new card design, please visit www.dmv.pa.gov.
state’s first nationally
designated bicycle route
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation this week announced the designation of Pennsylvania’s first nationally designated bicycle route — U.S. Bicycle Route 50.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials officially approved the route in May, making Pennsylvania the 25th state to join the developing U.S. Bicycle Route System.
“We are very proud to have, along with our partners, developed more than 160 miles of trails and roadway for U.S. Bicycle Route 50,” said Leslie S. Richards, PennDOT secretary. “We expect the designation of U.S. Bicycle Route 50 to result in significant transportation, health and economic benefits to the region.”
The 163-mile route mostly follows off-road trails, including the popular Great Allegheny Passage, Montour Trail, and the Panhandle Trail and connects Maryland to West Virginia through a variety of natural and agricultural landscapes, historical sites, thriving small towns and recreational hot spots. Cyclists can visit restored rail stations; Ohiopyle State Park, which has some of the best white water rafting on the east coast; Point State Park in Pittsburgh; and the nearby Fort Pitt Museum.
Additionally, Amtrak’s Capitol Limited route parallels U.S. Bicycle Route 50 between D.C. and Pittsburgh and offers the opportunity for cyclists to carry their bikes on or off the train at any station. This multi-modal option allows for more flexibility to plan bicycle trips without a car.
To see the placement of USBR 50 in Pennsylvania, visit “Statewide Bike Routes” at PennDOT’s “Ride a Bike” page at www.penndot.gov.