'The evidence from their sexual assault is not languishing in a room somewhere' — a rape kit update from the state

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — The state crime lab, using two batches of money, is making progress processing a backlog of untested rape kits.

The Department of Public Safety was awarded $1.5 million in Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) funds from Bureau of Justice Assistance. With that money, about 600 rape kits are being sent out of state to a private lab. Out of that batch about 50 have been flagged.

"We have around 400 reports back. Of those, around 50 have ended up with a profile that has been entered into the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database," said David Kanaris, the assistant laboratory chief for the state crime lab.

CODIS is a national program that links crimes to DNA.

Additionally, the state legislature awarded DPS $2.75 million to test kits submitted from other law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

There are about 2,500 of those kits.

State crime lab officials say that the processing time has sped up because of the testing happening in private labs on the east coast.

On average, officials say, it's now about a 10 month process from collection to results.

"Right now we have kits here waiting for us to test that are about a year old that's definitely not where we'd like to be, but a few years back we had kits that were several years old, so we're in a much better position now than we have been in the past," Michelle Collins a forensic biology supervisor at the lab said. "But we're still not where we want to be so we're constantly trying to make our process more efficient."

Collins says on average about 800 DNA kits are submitted to the crime lab, about 500 to 600 of which are sexual assault kits. She says the number increases about five to 10 percent every year.

Testing more rape kits faster has become part of a national conversation.

"I think its good for the victims of the State of Alaska to know that all those kits are being addressed, that the evidence from their sexual assault is not languishing in a room somewhere," Collins said.



 
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