California launches site to track results of rape kits after police backlogs.
California has launched a program to speed up the processing of rape kits, a move that comes amid a backlog of more than 13,000 untested kits across the state.
State officials plan to use the program, called the RapeKit Initiative, to get at any number of problems at the start of each new fiscal year as state revenue and police agencies grapple with the consequences of the deadly gang-rape of a University of California student in August and other sexual assaults.
Officials announced Monday that the program will track 10 percent more DNA profiles that were collected in this year’s crime statistics than last year.
The initiative will also require police agencies to report rape kits they receive within 24 hours, at least twice a week and at the state crime lab, which will help prosecutors identify the suspects and take the cases to trial faster. In addition, the program will expand the time rape kits can remain at the crime lab in Sacramento and will allow judges to consider police reports before deciding whether to have a warrant issued for a rape kit and, if so, whether it can be preserved in perpetuity.
The initiative comes amid a dramatic and sometimes contradictory picture of the ways sexual assault is handled in California.
For decades, rape kit programs have been considered to be “the gold standard” for the collection of evidence that can be used in cases of suspected sexual crime. While evidence from a rape kit is not admissible in court, a conviction can be used by the state to secure a reduced sentence or a shorter prison term.
Over the last four decades, police agencies across the state have reported increasing backlogs in the processing of rape kits. In the last two decades, the number of kits in police processing have jumped from 3,100 rape kits to more than 13,000.
In addition to the increase in rape kits, crime lab staff across the state are struggling to keep pace with a flood of reports from other agencies on cases from the previous year that need to be processed.
State officials have pointed to the increasing number of sexual assaults and rapes across