LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada lawmakers authorized another $1.2 million this week to continue chipping away at a backlog of thousands of sexual assault evidence kits that went untested for years, sometimes decades.
Members of the legislative Interim Finance Committee voted Thursday to accept a grant from the federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. It will help an ongoing, multimillion-dollar lab testing initiative, coordinated by the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, that’s expected to crack some cold cases.
Rape kits contain biological specimens collected from people after they report they were sexually assaulted. But a lack of resources means many are not promptly analyzed in a lab, and cases remain unsolved.
Authorities said there were about 8,000 backlogged kits when Nevada officials identified money from the New York City prosecutor’s office, the White House and a settlement with Chase bank to start testing them in earnest. About 1,700 kits have been submitted for analysis since February.
As of mid-November, 473 of the kits from southern Nevada were processed and 43 of those matched DNA profiles that are already in a crime database.
Eight arrests so far have come from the initiative.
Nevada Assistant Attorney General Wes Duncan said lab testing turnaround times have slowed as other states that now have money to test the kits are also trying to cut through their backlogs. Law enforcement agencies prepare batches of untested kits and send them for analysis when the lab says they can accept them.
Some lawmakers asked whether the state could use other labs to process the kits faster, although the attorney general’s office said it’s getting a good deal with a lab in Virginia that can test kits for less than $675 each. Analysis can sometimes cost $1,500 per kit.
“I’m not frustrated because I’ve seen how far we’ve come in this process,” Duncan said. “Everyone knew that when we wanted to tackle the untested kits in the state, it was going to be a huge task.”