(02-01) 19:49 PST LOS ANGELES, CA (AP) —
Police have cleared a vast backlog of sexual assault evidence kits that had gone untested for years, an official said Tuesday.
The backlog was whittled from 6,132 kits in 2008 to zero, Capt. Kevin McClure told the Police Commission.
It had developed in part because the Police Department crime lab was unable to cope with the volume of new cases and evidence kits languished for years in huge freezers. However, with the help of federal grants and other donations, the LAPD hired more lab staff and outsourced much of the testing to external agencies.
Results from the last several hundred kits must still be reviewed, but McClure expects that to happen within the next 60 days.
“It’s huge,” McClure said of clearing the backlog. “There was a lot of pressure put on the politicians and the command staff. . It became an absolute priority and rightfully so.”
The kits contain evidence such as body fluids or fingernail scrapings that could provide DNA evidence from suspects. Each kit costs about $1,000 to process.
McClure said that testing of cold case and current rape kits led to the arrests of 245 people on sexual assault-related charges in 2010.
Investigators missed deadlines to prosecute more than 200 potential cases because of the backlog. Kits that were not examined within 10 years of the alleged crime couldn’t be used to prosecute suspects due to the statute of limitations.
Women’s rights campaigner Sarah Tofte, who originally brought the backlog to the public’s attention in 2008, commended police on the elimination of the backlog.
“It’s another major jurisdiction that has signed on to the policy and practice of testing every rape kit and that sends an important message to other jurisdictions that you an can get rid of your backlog and it’s worth the effort,” said Tofte, who works as director of advocacy for the New York-based Joyful Hearts Foundation.