Thursday, April 24, 2014

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DPS to tackle backlog of rape kits

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TWC News: DPS to tackle backlog of rape kits
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Thousands of untested evidence kits from rape cases could soon finally be tested, thanks to $11 million appointed by lawmakers to the Texas Department of Public Safety in the legislative session.

According to DPS, the number of untested kits has reached about 20,000. Those involved say the reason so many have gone untested has a lot to do with money, but also a lack of evidence in certain cases which would warrant a test.

"We will get some very dangerous people off the streets if we test all of these kits," Torie Camp with the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault said.

A DPS spokesperson said the money will be used to outsource DNA screening and testing to private labs and will pay for five forensic scientists to review results and enter them into a database.

The new money will not affect evidence gathered before September of 1996.

"My position is if you test that sexual assault kit, you may be able to link that suspect to other sexual assault,” Camp said. “If everybody were doing that, we could have whole patterns across the city, state, country that no one has seen before."

Supporters say testing in a timely manner could mean more victims coming forward.

"Eighty-two percent of the people who are sexually assaulted or raped in our state never report, and a large part of them not reporting is the underfunding across the board from nurses to rape crisis centers to law enforcement to prosecutors," Noel Busch-Armendariz with the University of Texas' School of Social Work said.

Money for this backlog follows a bill that passed in 2011. It required an audit of the backlog of untested kits and mandated law enforcement to more quickly test newly collected kits, provided the funds were available.

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