Testing Rape Kit Backlog Just The First Step

Sep 21, 2015

Nevada is not alone in its backlog of untested rape kits. The kits pictured are from Cleveland where the backlog goes back 20 years ago.
Credit Lonnie Timmons III / The Plain Dealer

Earlier this month, we learned that Nevada is getting more than $5 million to test its backlog of 7,500 rape kits. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports this is just the first step in a much bigger process.

Testing just one rape kit can cost up to $1,500. That's why so many have been piling up in Nevada for decades. The state now has the money to get rid of its backlog and, once the results are in, law enforcement agencies can start checking that DNA evidence to see if it matches anyone already in their system.

Nevada's Assistant Attorney General Wesley Duncan recently spoke to our public radio partner KNPR in Las Vegas about one of the next steps for those agencies: notifying and working with victims.

"We might be opening up wounds that people have tried to heal from crimes that may have occurred many years ago," Duncan told KNPR, "so the way that you contact them, the way that you talk about their case is so very important because these victims deserve dignity in this process."

If a DNA match is found, those victims may need to testify in court. Duncan says that when Ohio started testing its backlog of rape kits, the state found hundreds of DNA matches. If and when that happens in Nevada, he says there are a lot of questions to answer moving forward:

"Do we need to hire more prosecutors once we start getting these DNA hits? Do we need to have more cold-case units that investigate these crimes once we have these DNA hits? And then, finally, how do we ensure this doesn't happen again?"

Duncan is part of a state working group charged with addressing the rape kit backlog. Down the road, he says they'll be looking at larger legislative fixes so that all Nevada counties have the funding to test their kits right away.