SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Lawmakers are putting pressure on law enforcement and forensic labs to clear up a statewide rape kit backlog.
Rape kits allow crime labs to match an unknown attacker to a database of convicted criminals, but thousands of them aren’t being tested at all.
“My kit sat and collected dust for nine-and-a-half years while the man that assaulted me was essentially on a nationwide crime spree, leaving victims in his wake,” said sexual assault victim Natasha Alexandro.
A bill making its way through the Capitol would aim to put more criminals away sooner by requiring law enforcement agencies and forensic labs to test the kits within 30 days.
“Urge and encourage the crime labs to test just for a foreign Y chromosome, because they are looking for the Y chromosome that would be associated with the perpetrator,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley.
Some cases are solved without testing, but Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner says that needs to change, because the case could tie the attacker to another unsolved case.
“Often times law enforcement feels, ‘Well we know who the assailant was. We are going to be able to solve this crime quickly. Why do we need to go and analyze this evidence,’” Skinner said.
A lack of financial resources is also a reason the kits sit in the labs.
The California Sheriff’s Association is not against the testing, but does have concerns about the tight timetable to process the kits.
“The concern is mandating unworkable timeframes that don’t allow for flexibility in terms of local priorities on what needs to be tested when,” said Cory Salzillo.
Sheriff’s departments are also concerned that the backlog of the rape kits will not dwindle if crime labs have to also process every single new kit.
But Alexandro says it’s a chance can’t afford not to take.
“It’s sending a message to the people of California that we want you to be safe,” she said, “and it’s sending a message to criminals that you are not allowed to get away with this.”
The bill just passed through its first committee hearing.