There’s a backlog of untested rape kits in southern Nevada, but while the crime lab is working to fix the problem, the discussion continues on how to prevent it from happening again in the future.
A long-term solution is unclear because of funding. The crime lab director says it costs more than $600 even to start testing a kit, and the cost can grow from there.
So considering the kit, the staffing needed to test it, the detective to investigate it, and then a prosecutor to handle the case resources are needed.
However, the I-Team has learned those resources are in place right now because of a push to end the backlog, which means the money is temporary.
Ending the backlog of untested rape kits is the focus of the documentary “I Am Evidence,” which is now in theaters.
In southern Nevada, the problem was discussed by a panel at the Rape Crisis Center.
According to Metro Police, the department which runs the crime lab, there are more than 4,000 untested rape kits.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” said Jake Villani, the chief deputy district attorney. “Could it have been avoided? Yeah, it absolutely could have.”
Villani says funding through the department of justice is helping to end the current backlog, but he’s also pointing to the need for a more permanent solution.
“If that is not in place by the time these funds run out we’re gonna find ourselves in the exact same position we were at the beginning of this a few years down the road,” Villani said.
For example, in the crime lab, Director Kimberly Murga says three lab technicians who will test rape kits will begin this July, but those positions are only funded through June of 2019.
“While we have received some limiting funding for the DNA, we’re still looking at long-term funding for the rest of those pieces in order to sustain these efforts,” Murga said.
Murga says the lab receives about 500 new rape kits a year. Testing for some of those is bumped to the top if police consider a suspect an imminent danger to society.
While those newer kits are being tested, the lab is also tackling the older kits.
“We’re testing over 300 a month,” Murga said.
“Basically what we’re looking at is just prioritization and resources,” Villani said.
In Nevada, a law went into effect to help make sure the rape kits are tested within five months, but the problem, which was mentioned at that panel discussion on Monday is that there was no extra funding to go along with it.
As for the current backlog, the crime lab director says the goal is for it to be fixed by next Spring.
The lab is outsourcing those tests. The D.A.’s office says 16 arrests have made been as a result of testing those old kits.