There's a backlog of untested rape kits in California and across the country. Alameda County, for example, had 1,900 kits in storage. Some were tested recently and DNA from 124 kits matched 55 suspects. Lawmakers have proposed new bills in the Legislature and grant money available to help process the kits. San Francisco Chronicle reporter Melody Gutierrez has been reporting this story and she joins Insight for this week’s News Network.
On why rape kits are sometimes not processed
Either police feel that the evidence in there is not needed, the suspect may be known to the victim and the identity isn’t in question. There are other reasons for not processing these kits and putting them in the storage. But there’s also been examples of kits where that evidence would have been crucial to a case and they end up in storage as well.
On the need for increasing funding for processing kits
It [DNA] does cost money to have these things processed. Budgets are an issue and that’s why some of this grant funding is so important. DNA may be important to another case in which officers aren’t aware that there’s a connection to multiple other cases. In a lot of the cases where you’re finding law enforcement going through their backlog, and you can see this with Alameda County’s numbers too, it’s one suspect who is often connected through multiple crimes. That’s why people like District Attorney Nancy O’Malley is making this so high on her priority list, is that there are serial offenders that could be caught by testing all kits.
On different angles lawmakers are looking at for rape kits
There are other bills that would create a better tracking system for full rape kits. That bill would allow for the Legislature to receive a report at the end of the year that says how many rape kits in California were tested, how many were not and what is the reason that some of those kits were not tested. There are other bills that would create the same rape kit for all counties so that there’s not different rape kits going throughout the state, which can create some issues in processing. There’s also a bill that would allow victims to have a sort of tracking number on their rape kits so that they can have the ability to monitor the process and see “is their kit being processed, if it is, where is it in the process?”
There’s a myriad of different bills that are going through the California Legislature and really nationally, this has become a big deal.
On the Alameda County suspect who was proven to have sexually assaulted two teenagers in Berkeley
Two teenage girls, 15 and 19, who were in their car when a man approached them with a gun and sexually assaulted both of them. They went immediately into the hospital. That was 2008 and it took until 2014 for them to send that kit, which immediately returned a hit. In the subsequent months, the suspect also attacked another woman, which the District Attorney's office alleges was an attempt to sexually assault that woman too.