News & Announcements

Criminology Research Center Selected as Key Partner in Federal Grant Award to Tackle Unsolved Violent Crimes

The Levin College of Public Affairs and Education’s Criminology Research Center has been selected as a key partner in a $2.5 million federal grant award to tackle unsolved violent crimes.

The Levin College of Public Affairs and Education’s Criminology Research Center is proud to announce its selection as the lead research partner on a groundbreaking $2.5 million federal grant awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI). This transformative grant made to the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force (Task Force), led by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO) will enable the partnership to expand its mission beyond sexual assault cases and take on the critical challenge of addressing all unsolved violent crimes in Cleveland.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance's SAKI is a national program dedicated to enhancing the criminal justice system's response to sexual assault cases by addressing the backlog of untested sexual assault kits.

Dr. Rachel Lovell and the Criminology Research Center have a longtime partnership with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office in their efforts to test all backlogged SAKs linked to assaults that fall within Ohio’s 20-year statute of limitations. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office, which relies on Dr. Lovell’s team to oversee its research support, has become a national leader in identifying and prosecuting cold-case rape offenders. They have successfully investigated over 7,000 of these cases and indicted 890 individuals.

This latest grant, announced by the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s SAKI on September 28, signifies the expanded work of the Task Force, which is one of the first sites in the nation to receive this award. The Criminology Research Center will receive $330,841 over three years to work with partners to assess the results of their efforts to inventory all unresolved violent crimes, submit available forensic evidence for DNA testing, and follow up on the testing. An undertaking of this size and scope has never been attempted within the County’s jurisdiction.

This funding cycle is the first year that the Bureau of Justice Assistance has expanded funds to use DNA to address all violent crimes in addition to sexual assault and sexually motivated homicide. A preliminary review of violent crime data managed by the CCPO reveals 29,982 violent crime incidents between 2017 and 2022. Analyses conducted by the Criminology Research Center indicate that only 39% of these incidents initially included a named suspect, suggesting the majority remain unresolved.

Dr. Rachel Lovell, Director of the Criminology Research Center at Cleveland State University, expressed her enthusiasm about the grant award, saying, "We are honored to be chosen as a key partner in this important initiative to leverage to power of DNA technology for unsolved violent crimes. This grant will allow us to expand our efforts and explore the lasting impact this has on our community by addressing unresolved cases that have plagued our city for far too long."