In an article from Hawai‘i last week, “Evidence Ignored in Unsolved Rapes,” Adrienne LaFrance of the Honolulu Civil Beat examines the backlog of untested rape kits in the state’s capital city.

In 2009, the last year for which data were available, 109 cases of the city’s 243 rape cases–or 45 percent–went unsolved and between 60 and 80 percent of the rape kits collected that year–a total of 139–were never to the city’s crime lab for testing.

The lab does not track the exact number of kits it receives each year, according to Michelle Yu, a city spokeswoman, and it is unknown how many of the unsolved cases had untested evidence associated with it. Yu told the Civil Beat that kits are brought to the police evidence property room and stay there unless the lab receives a “work request” from the prosecutor’s office. She estimates that between 30 and 60 sexual assault work requests are submitted to the DNA lab each year.

Supervising Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kathy Kealoha says that budget cuts, increased workloads and lack of a standard protocol on when to send kits to the lab may contribute to the low number of submitted work requests.

But Adriana Ramelli, Executive Director of the Sex Abuse Treatment Center in Honolulu, which provides crisis services to victims and whose trained physicians perform the forensic-medical examinations to collect rape kits, says that a lack of resources should not slow the conversation about how to improve the current system.

“We need to look at what would be the benefits and what would it take, dollar-wise,” she said. “You never want to accept the reality that a lack of resources prevent (kits from being analyzed). If there’s a kit that’s sitting on a shelf and it could identify someone… It becomes a tool where if you have this person uploaded into some bank you try to cross-reference it. That’s the bigger question.”

You can read the full article here.