ALBANY, N.Y. (WUTR) – Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new state facility to store sexual offense evidence collection kits—commonly referred to as rape kits—that have not yet been released to law enforcement custody. The facility—opened by the State Office of Victim Services and already operational—follows state law requiring any unreported kits to be stored for 20 years from the date of collection.

“New York State remains committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault in every way possible,” Hochul said in a statement. “This new State facility will be a critical tool to help deliver support and justice while providing a strong foundation for victims to heal and alleviate some of the pressure they may feel when it comes to legal timelines.”

The secure storage—located in the Capital Region—empowers victims to receive the medical care they need, to consent to evidence collection, and let them decide whether to file a police report at all. Its specific location is being kept secure in order to protect the integrity of the evidence within unreleased rape kits.

Currently, kits like these are stored in hospitals for 20 years. Hospitals across the state currently have about 10,000 kits in storage. The facility began storing kits in January. Its current capacity for evidence is 17,400 items, which should increase to 26,600 items once renovations to a second wing are complete.

Mohawk Valley hospitals and their employees will be among the first to notify victims of sexual assault that their kits will be transferred to the facility and how to track them. They have also been among some of the first trained in proper transfer protocols. Hospitals in the rest of the state will follow suit in the coming months. Training for the rest of the state—beginning in the Syracuse area, Long Island, and the North Country—starts in May.