Rape kit test back­log cleared in Santa Clara County

Antelope Valley Press - - NEWS -

SAN JOSE (AP) — A San Fran­cisco Bay Area county has cleared its back­log of rape test kits and ex­pe­dited the time that it takes to process them, of­fi­cials said.

The 269 untested sex­ual as­sault ev­i­dence kits — col­lected from vic­tims, sus­pects or both fol­low­ing a re­ported crime — that had been sit­ting in the county crime lab since May of 2018 have all been ex­am­ined, the Santa Clara County District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice said.

In a re­port pre­sented Tues­day to the Board of Su­per­vi­sors, the of­fice also said that as of the end of 2019, the pro­cess­ing pe­riod for kit ex­am­i­na­tion in the county is 16 days. That’s down from an av­er­age of 94 days in 2018, and ahead of the 30-day com­ple­tion goal the county had set for its crime lab, the Mer­cury News re­ported.

“There’s no other place in the coun­try that’s test­ing kits even close to that rate,” District At­tor­ney Jeff Rosen said.

The full scope of the prob­lem of untested rape kits across Cal­i­for­nia re­mains largely un­known.

In Santa Clara County, the stated back­log was con­fined to kits that had been sub­mit­ted to the crime lab, and did not ac­count for kits lan­guish­ing in po­lice ware­houses.

A Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Justice au­dit due to be re­leased this sum­mer could shed light on just how many untested kits have been lan­guish­ing in po­lice ev­i­dence ware­houses, pos­si­bly for decades.

The Joy­ful Heart Foun­da­tion, a na­tional sex­ual as­sault vic­tim ad­vo­cate, es­ti­mates the true Cal­i­for­nia back­log to be more than 13,000 kits.

“It’s been a na­tional tragedy as to the way sex­ual as­sault kits are pro­cessed, how long it takes them, and how long the back­log is,” county Su­per­vi­sor Cindy Chavez said. “In the state of Cal­i­for­nia we have thou­sands and thou­sands of kits that haven’t been tested or are in some form of process. What that means is that some­body’s not get­ting their justice.”

Statewide, au­thor­i­ties and ad­vo­cacy groups say they lack a full un­der­stand­ing of just how many sex­ual as­sault kits have been col­lected by po­lice but not tested for any num­ber of rea­sons. Un­til last year, when state law­mak­ers passed a bill man­dat­ing that ev­i­dence kits be pro­cessed within 120 days, the state only of­fered guide­lines for how rape kits should be han­dled.

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