Analysis of 5,000 untested rape kits made possible with a grant from Ohio's Justice Department has so far helped authorities in Cuyahoga County secure 250 convictions. In fact, the county prosecutor calls the kits "the greatest gold mine of information and leads for law enforcement that I have seen in my four-decade career," adding that 1,000 suspects may eventually be prosecuted, per a release. Along with that news comes a chilling finding: "Serial rapists are far more common" than previously thought, says the task force involved with the project, which includes researchers from Case Western Reserve University. A review of 243 sexual assault files found that 51% were linked to serial offenders—26% of whom had previously been arrested for sexual assault and 60% of whom were later arrested in an unrelated rape case.
New York notes the figure is high because prosecutors prioritized cases linked to serial offenders. Still, "our findings suggest it is very likely that a sexual offender has either previously sexually assaulted or will offend again in the future," a researcher says. "Investigating each sexual assault as possibly perpetrated by a serial offender has the potential to reduce the number of sexual assaults if investigations focus more on the offender than on single incidents." Serial offenders were more likely to kidnap their victims—often strangers—and to use or threaten the use of weapons. Some 74% also had a prior felony arrest and 95% had a subsequent felony arrest, compared to 51% and 78% among one-time offenders, reports the Independent. "These are one-man crime waves. And now that we realize this, we cannot allow these kits to sit on shelves untested in the future," the prosecutor says. (Decades-old rape kits pointed to a serial rapist in Houston.)