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New State Data Show 97 Percent Drop in Backlogged Rape Kits

By PA Auditor General

May 07, 2020
PA Auditor General

Questions why 41 law-enforcement agencies still have 94 backlogged kits

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said newly released state data show that only 94 backlogged rape kits remain in the hands of law enforcement agencies – the lowest number since Pennsylvania began tracking untested rape kits.

“While important progress is being made, I’m concerned that nearly 100 victims of sexual assault are still waiting for their evidence kits to even be sent to a lab,” DePasquale said. “These brave victims underwent grueling physical exams not only for the sake of their own cases, but also to potentially help protect others from being assaulted.”

Victims who have sexual assault kits performed undergo an hours-long forensic examination to collect any evidence left behind by their attackers. The evidence collected is commonly referred to as a rape kit. The kit may be tested in Pennsylvania only after the victim has consented.

The Department of Health’s annual report shows a total of 94 backlogged kits as of Dec. 31, 2019 – a 97 percent decrease from four years ago, when more than 3,000 kits were awaiting testing. A backlogged kit is one that has received victim consent to be tested but has been waiting 12 months or longer for testing.

DePasquale questioned why 94 backlogged kits remain in the hands of 41 law-enforcement agencies.

“The law clearly states that, once consent for testing is received, law enforcement must submit a kit to an approved forensic lab within 15 days,” DePasquale continued. “I’m urging police departments and prosecutors to make sure they’re complying with the law and sending these kits to the appropriate public forensic crime labs so they can be processed and have any usable DNA uploaded into the FBI’s national DNA database, known as CODIS.”

Of Pennsylvania’s roughly 1,100 local law enforcement agencies, 1,060 reported their kit numbers for 2019 – a 112 percent increase over the 499 agencies that reported in 2016, the first year the statewide report was released.

DePasquale first discussed this issue in 2016 when he released a special report on the state’s untested rape kits. It found that communication failures, bureaucratic breakdowns and resource shortages led to an incorrect original count of the state’s backlog of untested kits, some of which dated to the 1990s. In the years since, the number of kits awaiting testing has trended steadily downward.

DePasquale also said his office has been in discussions with legislative staff about establishing a comprehensive tracking system to let victims keep tabs on where their kit is in the testing process. Such as system was created by Idaho State Police and is being offered at no cost to other public agencies.

Learn more about the Department of the Auditor General online at www.paauditor.gov.

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Editor’s Note: The following is a list of where backlogged kits were reported as of Dec. 31, 2019:

CountyDepartmentBacklogged Kits
AdamsConewago Township Police Department1
AlleghenyCity of McKeesport Police2
AlleghenyHomestead Police Department1
AlleghenyWest Mifflin Police Department1
BeaverAliquippa Police Department3
BeaverBeaver County District Attorney’s Office/County Detective2
BeaverCity of Beaver Falls1
BeaverPatterson Township Police Department2
BucksMorrisville Borough Police Department1
CambriaFerndale Borough Police Department1
CambriaWest Hills Regional1
CentrePenn State University Police and Public Safety2
ChesterKennett Square Police Department1
ChesterWest Whiteland Township Police Department1
ClarionKnox Borough Police Department1
ClarionNew Bethlehem Borough7
CumberlandNorth Middleton Township Police Department5
DauphinPennsylvania State Police (statewide)17
DelawareClifton Heights Police Department1
JeffersonBrookville Police Department4
LackawannaClarks Summit Police1
LancasterManor Township Police Department2
LancasterMillersville Borough Police Department1
LawrenceNew Castle City Police Department1
LuzerneLehman Township Police Department1
LuzerneWilkes-Barre City Police Department12
McKeanCity of Bradford Police Department3
McKeanOtto-Eldred Regional Police1
McKeanSmethport Borough Police1
MercerThiel Police1
MontgomeryAmbler Borough Police Department1
MontgomeryBridgeport Borough Police Department1
MontgomeryHorsham Township Police Department1
NorthumberlandNorthumberland Police Department1
NorthumberlandWatsontown Police Department1
SchuylkillPottsville Borough of Police1
WashingtonCanonsburg Police Department2
WashingtonNorth Strabane Police3
WashingtonWest Brownsville Police Department1
WestmorelandRostraver Township Police Department2
WyomingTunkhannock Township Police1

 

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