The state of Nevada is very close to eliminating the rape kit backlog. The attorney generals office announced Monday that almost all of the 8,000 untested kits have been sent to labs.
The southern part of the state got the bulk of them and are being tested by Metro Police.
Over the last two years, out of 6,600 rape kits, Metro Police has completed testing on more than 5,400 of them.
So far there has already been more than 10 arrests locally and 17 statewide.
The police department hired more personnel to work through the backlog, but they don’t have permanent funding to keep them employed for much longer.
“We are in the tail end of this very large project,” said Kimberly Murga, the director of Laboratory Services for Metro Police.
Murga says her team has been working on untested rape kits from cases dating back from 1985 to 2014. Almost 1,200profiles have been entered into a national database. Law enforcement got hits on almost half of them.
The department has hired five additional experts to keep up with the workload, but they are still forced to outsource a lot of the DNA testing.
“Eventhough we sent the kits out to be tested, we have to do 100 percent review on everything that comes back to take ownership of all that data so outsourcing is just always a temporary means to kind of bridge a necessary gap,” Murga said.
The department has received temporary funding to hire additional personnel.
The state money runs out next June, and the grant money will be gone by next December.
Murga says to continue to keep up with the more than 500 kits they get a year, they need permanent funding, which includes money for testing supplies.
“If we can’t have the resources in-house as far as personnel and purchasing capabilities, yeah, it would impede our ability to timely test these sex assault kits,” said Murga.
Murga believes DNA testing is only one area that needs to be permanently funded in order to avoid another backlog.
DNA is the first piece of the pie but everything that we do has implications associated with sex assault detectives and our victim advocates and our prosecutors,” Murga said.
Testing of the 1,200 remaining rape kits is expected to be completed by late next Spring, early summer.
Meanwhile, the state is also working to implement a tracking system that will allow victims to follow their case from beginning to end.
If all goes as planned, it can be up and running within a few months.