Actress Mariska Hargitay is urging politicians to support the possible expansion of the U.S. Dna registry, so real-life detectives would be able to solve assault, abuse and murder cases faster.
Hargitay, who plays Detective Olivia Benson on hit show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, launched the organisation Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 a bid to help foster a community of healing for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.
And as a result of her work with the group, she has now joined forces with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to push for a larger Dna database, which would allow officials to track down perpetrators with prior offences - who might otherwise walk free.
Releasing a video on her website, she says, "When I started playing detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Svu my eyes were opened to the prevalence and the devastation of sexual assault. It wasn't just the scripts for the show but in the thousands of letters and emails that I received from viewers telling me their own stories of sexual violence... Those stories inspired me to start the Joyful Heart Foundation. Our mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors...
"Through our work we've seen the healing power that justice brings to rape victims and that's why I'm excited to talk to you today about expanding the New York data bank to include samples from offenders convicted of all felony crimes and every penal law misdemeanour.
"This reform will bring healing and justice to survivors, hold violent offenders accountable, solve and prevent crimes and avoid wrongful convictions.
"We know that individuals who commit serious crimes, like rape, have broken the law before. A single Dna sample often matches to multiple cold cases when entered in the data bank. We also know that many rapists have previous convictions for lower level crimes. In fact since New York began collecting Dna samples for some misdemeanour convictions in 2006 offender profiles from shoplifting and criminal trespass convictions alone have matched to 332 sexual assaults."