Progress on the Rape Kit Backlog in New Orleans

The New Orleans Police Department (NODP) is making progress on its backlog of over 800 untested rape kits. Various local news agencies reported that the NOPD expects that all kits, some of which date back to the 1980s, will be tested by early 2012.

So far, the department has tested about 300 of the kits, which have already yielded 12 DNA matches to profiles in the national DNA databank, CODIS. The NOPD has already made two arrests and expects to make many more as a result of the testing the backlogged rape kits.

“There are going to be a lot of individuals who are going to be arrested for sexual assaults that they thought they got away with,” said New Orleans Police Commander Paul Noel.

The department is working with the Louisiana State Police and Marshall University in West Virginia, which are contributing time and resources needed to test the hundreds of kits. reports that the NOPD is also working through another backlog: cases involving rape kits that yield DNA matches that were never investigated. When Noel took over as commander of the sex crimes division in July 2010, there were 400 such matches that were never properly investigated because police had downgraded the classification of the sexual assaults in reports to classifications like “miscellaneous incidents.”

Since then, detectives have investigated 200 of these cases. reports that they have arrested or put out warrants for the arrest of suspects in 73 cases and continue to work on the rest of the backlog, according to Noel.

“Requiring even one rape victim to wait an unreasonable amount of time for a sexual assault kit to be reviewed is unacceptable–both to the victim and to the people of New Orleans,” said Superintendent Ronal Serpas. “These kits are no longer sitting idle in storage. Progress is being made and suspects are being identified.”

Read our previous coverage on New Orleans’s backlog here on the Backlog Blog.

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