AUSTIN, Texas - The Austin Police Department is working with several agencies to ensure their sexual assault kits are being stored properly.
This is after mold was found on the outside of hundreds of rape kit containers inside of a storage refrigerator. APD is still unsure how the mold got there.
Austin Police continues to face concerns: from a backlog of thousands of rape kits, to the suspension of their DNA lab, to now mold being found.
"We have no information at this time that this mold has impacted any of these kits," says Interim Chief Brian Manley, Austin Police Department.
The City of Austin sent out a memo to the mayor and council members. It says Signature Science is a lab contracted by the city to conduct DNA analysis while APD DNA lab operations are suspended. On April 25th, they notified APD that they received damp paperwork and found mold inside of at least one sexual assault kit. The following day, there was an inspection of a storage refrigerator located in the evidence warehouse off Martin Luther King,
Jr. Blvd. An audit was conducted on 1,629 cases, 849 cases were found to have some signs of mold on the outer box. APD has yet to check inside.
"We're not going to open those up. Again, we want to make sure whatever we do doesn't make the situation any worse since there's mold on the outside," says Interim Chief Manley.
Interim Police Chief Brian Manley addressed the situation on Tuesday. He says most of these cases are from the 90's to the early 2000's.
"None of this evidence has been used for prosecution, nor has it been processed. So these are kits that we have maintained," says Interim Chief Manley.
We're told all seams on the outside of the refrigerator were then sealed, to prevent moisture from entering. A new dehumidifier was also installed. Then on June 19th, remediation efforts began. But, they have since been placed on hold until APD receives more direction on how to handle the mold. They have reached out to the Texas Forensic Science Commission to review their quality assurance protocols.
"I think what's really important to note, and what hasn't been put out yet, is we have sent well over 1,000 kits from this refrigerator out for processing. They have been processed and we have had no reports of mold in all of those kits," says Interim Chief Manley.
APD is till awaiting the report on the original rape kit where mold was found to be inside. But, Manley says the lab has indicated they do not believe it had a negative impact on the test.