In 1999, New York City began testing its backlog of nearly 17,000 rape kits. The city used what is known as the "forklift approach" to clear the backlog. Rather than sorting through all of the untested kits, they sent every kit to a private laboratory for testing, including kits from cold cases, cases on which the statute of limitations had expired and cases that had been closed previously.
As a result, law enforcement officials were able to link together cases committed by serial offenders and exonerate a wrongly convicted individual. In total, clearing the backlog led to 2,000 DNA matches and 200 cold case prosecutions. Testing took approximately 4 years and cost $12 million.
Going forward, city officials implemented an official policy of testing every kit booked into police evidence. Testing begins within a day or two of when a kit arrives at the crime lab, and the average turnaround time is 60 days. After the city adopted this policy, the arrest rate for rape jumped from 40 percent to 70 percent.
Learn more about New York City's reforms and read about its efforts in the media here.