180K Rape Kits Sit, Untested

Delay means rapists are free to attack other women
By Sarah Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2010 1:31 PM CDT
Demands for DNA testing, a shortage of technologists, limited budgets, and the $1,500 cost of collecting and processing each rape kit helped create the backlog.   (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

(Newser) – The forensic magic of CSI aside, the US is buried under an embarrassing avalanche of unprocessed rape kits, Marie Claire reports in a lengthy look at the consequences. The issue got attention in 2003, when untested kits from more than 500,000 criminal cases were found in labs around the country, but the evidence backlog remains at 180,000, Congress estimates. "What other crimes would be disregarded like this?" asked the director of a rape clinic. "How could you close a case and never open the evidence?"

The issue gets even scarier when you consider that "most rapes are perpetrated by serial rapists," a UMass psychology professor said. So while victims wait—often years—for their samples to be tested and the DNA results matched, perpetrators are out there victimizing other women. But there are hopeful signs. One New York rep is asking Congress for more money for testing, and both Illinois and New York have committed to quick testing, with promising results. New York City now has a 70% arrest rate—three times the national average.

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