Alaska bill would shrink time limit a rape kit could stay untested

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - An Anchorage Democratic representative is planning to introduce a bill that would shorten the time that a rape kit could remain untested

Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, has spearheaded efforts to end the backlog of rape kits in Alaska. House Bill 49, passed by the Alaska Legislature in May, imposed a one-year deadline that a rape kit could remain untested.

Shrinking that timeline further is something Tarr says is essential to combating crime.

However, the one-year time limit for testing kits in HB 49 does not help end the backlog of untested kits in Alaska, as it is not applied retroactively. According to the Department of Public Safety’s latest data published online, there are currently 2,568 untested kits across Alaska.

Some kits have sat untested for years and even decades.

To end that backlog, the Alaska Legislature put $2.75 million in the capital budget in 2018. Part of that appropriation went to hiring more staff at the state Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory.

Tarr says more staff would likely need to be hired to shrink the timeline to six months.

HB 49 also contains timelines for other parts of the process of investigating sexual assaults. The law enforcement agency has to send the kit to an accredited laboratory within 30 days of receiving it.

Sexual assault victims must also be contacted within two weeks of the kit being tested, a process that Tarr says has been proven to give reassurance to survivors that their cases are being taken seriously.

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