Memphis has made a commitment to address and eliminate the city’s backlog of untested sexual assault kits. And they're not alone in their efforts to tackle the backlog.
When the team at Joyful Heart began gathering data for the new interactive map on endthebacklog.org, illustrating everything we know about the rape kit backlog, we worried that the map might be a bit bare. Looking now at the final version of the map, the results are actually very powerful.
Recently, the rape kit backlog has been an increasingly common topic in news stories from across the country, from Ohio and Illinois to Texas and Tennessee.
Last week in Aurora, Colorado, Police Chief Dan Oates announced that evidence from 48 different sexual assault cases was destroyed by mistake. The evidence, all from 2009 cases, had been destroyed during a six-month period beginning in January 2013.
In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced the state will dedicate $4 million in legal settlement funds toward clearing the backlog of thousands of untested rape kits in Wayne County. The state legislature must now appropriate the funds through a special funding bill, which has already passed in the House of Representatives. In Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill making the state the third—following Illinois and Texas—to require the testing of all rape kits. Going forward, the newly passed legislation requires law enforcement agencies to submit rape kit evidence for testing within 21 days of receipt.
The first two criminal indictments, formal statements charging a defendant with a crime, have been filed in Cuyahoga County, Ohio as a result of Attorney General Mike DeWine’s initiative to clear the state’s rape kit backlog, with many more expected to follow. As we shared recently, 53 law enforcement agencies from across Ohio have submitted 2,465 backlogged rape kits, more than 1,000 of which came from Cleveland. From approximately 600 kits tested so far, 90 DNA hits have resulted.
There has been a flurry of reports in the news recently about the steps several cities across the country have taken to eliminate their rape kit backlogs. These cities are in varying stages of analyzing their untested kits and re-engaging the survivors whose kits were part of the backlog. Two of the cities are located in states—Illinois and Texas—that have passed legislation requiring the testing of all rape kits booked into evidence. The others are located in Ohio, where the Attorney General has encouraged law enforcement agencies to test all kits.
The Colorado House Judiciary Committee has taken a step toward eliminating the state’s rape kit backlog. The Committee unanimously passed a bill, HB 1020, that would require each law enforcement agency to inventory—within 60 days—and send for testing—within 90 days—the untested kits in its storage facilities.
The Quad-City Times recently reported that there are 671 untested rape kits sitting in storage at the police department in Davenport, Iowa; some have been there since the 1990s. Of the 47 rape kits collected in Davenport in 2012, police sent only 8 kits to the crime lab. Of the 64 kits collected in 2011, only 12 went to the lab for testing.
Recently, there has been news of rape kit backlogs in two areas of the country: the greater Denver area in Colorado and the Phoenix metropolitan area in Arizona.