Texas Estimates 20,000 Untested Rape Kits Statewide

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) estimates there are 20,000 untested rape kits sitting in police storage facilities across the state, according to a January, 3, 2013 article in The New York Times.

In 2011, the Texas state legislature passed a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to count the untested kits in their evidence rooms and report their numbers to DPS. Despite an October 2011 deadline, few agencies complied with the reporting requirement.

To date, approximately 130 of more than 2,600 police agencies have submitted their backlog numbers, including many of the biggest agencies. Among the reporting agencies, there are 15,900 untested rape kits. Based on that number, DPS estimates there to be roughly 20,000 untested kits statewide.

To clear a backlog of that size, DPS believes it will cost between $7 million and $11 million. When the state legislature meets for its 2013 session, it will discuss how to pay for testing. State officials are hopeful that the U.S. Congress will pass the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act, which would create a national registry for rape kit evidence and amend current law to require a greater percentage of Debbie Smith Act grant funds be spent directly on analyzing untested DNA evidence. The U.S. Senate passed the SAFER Act on New Year’s Eve, but it failed to pass the House and will be re-introduced in the new session.

Some Texas law enforcement agencies are already seeing results from their efforts to clear the backlog. In Houston, where fees collected from strip-club patrons help to fund the processing of untested rape kits, testing led to the arrest of a man for a rape that occurred ten years ago.

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