Rape Kits Go Untested

Hundreds of rape kits across the state have not been tested

By Danya Bacchus
|  Wednesday, Jul 13, 2011  |  Updated 10:19 AM PDT
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A new bill seeks to require nine counties in California with solve rates of less than 12 percent to test every rape kit they receive, along with other referendums to standard operating procedure around the state.

A new bill seeks to require nine counties in California with solve rates of less than 12 percent to test every rape kit they receive, along with other referendums to standard operating procedure around the state.

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Rapists could be walking the streets because hundreds of rape kits across the state have not been tested.  A new bill going before the California State Assembly aims to increase the solve rate of forcible rape, in some places, by testing every kit.

Nine counties in California with solve rates of less than 12 percent, will have to test every rape kit they receive. Many agencies across the state said they don't have the money or resources to test every kit.  It's the main reason why lawmakers want them to document what they're doing with the kits.

Brown envelopes, known as rape kits, are in crime labs across the state. Each hold biological evidence, such as DNA, from sexual assaults and many will never be tested.

"The question is whether the investment of resources to do those analysis is worth the return you get," Steve Guroff, a supervising criminalist with the San Diego county Sheriff's Crime lab, explained.

He said before a kit can be analyzed, the lab has to receive a request from investigators.  Many times, that doesn't happen.

"Either the kit was collected and the victim later recanted or the case was found to be unfounded or the case is prosecuted to a resolution without the analysis every being conducted, " Guroff said.

A new measure before the state Assembly would require law enforcement agencies to document how many rape kits they receive, how many are tested and if not, why.

"It's progress the fact that it's been introduced," Cara Kiggins, with the Center for Community solutions, said

She and other Sexual Assault Victim advocates were hoping lawmakers would push for all rape kits to be tested but said this is a step in the right direction.

"To see it being discussed, to see the effort to say we want to hold law enforcement accountable and for them to be to show they're doing the best they can with the resources they have," she said.

The Sheriff's Crime Lab said they have about 80 to 100 kits backlogged, meaning they've received a request but have not issued a report.

The analysis can last between 80 to 90 days.

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