Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced ?on Thursday a new initiative in partnership with the New York County District Attorney?s Office (DANY) to award $41 million in grants to 20 jurisdictions to reduce ? or better still, eliminate, the rape kit backlog persistent nationwide.
The DANY is also contributing an additional $38 million, for a total of $79 million now committed to end the backlog in 27 states.
It has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of completed rape kits remain untested ? there?s currently no system in place to track the rape kit backlog. Often, rape kits are booked into evidence by law enforcement, but a DNA analysis is never done on the collected materials. Furthermore, the crime labs that can do such analysis face so many incoming rape kits, that analysis often is not done in a timely manner.
The problem came to public attention six years ago when Kym Worthy, a prosecutor in Detroit, discovered 10,000 forgotten rape kits in a warehouse. The city recently finished testing those kits, and found 487 suspected serial rapists, with links to cases in 39 states.?
?The bottom line is simple ? if we?re able to test these kits, more crimes could be solves and more women can live with the comfort of knowing her rapist will not return,? Biden said in a statement.?
States with programs in place to count, track and test untested kids are seeing results, according to the End the Backlog. The organization reports that in New York City, where there had been a backlog of 17,000 untested rape kits, city and law enforcement officials enacted a policy and developed a system to test every rape kit. The city?s arrest rate for rape has since jumped from 40 percent to 70 percent.
As Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay?s Joyful Heart Foundation ? a long-time, vocal, and consistent advocacy group working to address the rape kit backlog epidemic ? stated following today?s announcement, performing DNA analysis on previously untested rape kits ?can identify unknown assailants, confirm the presence of a known suspect, affirm the survivor?s account of the attack, connect the suspect to other unsolved crimes, and exonerate the wrongly convicted.?
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