AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Just over a year ago, the Austin Police Department was backlogged with thousands of rape kits, some dating back into the 1990's. "We've gotten all those DNA reports back and now we've sent the DNA reports to the department of public safety which is our partnering lab, at the cap lab which is our CODIS provider.
Amid concerns of how the kits were handled, the lab was shut down...they are now using the DPS lab. "Today we are sending out every sexual assault kit that comes across the forensic science bureau out to an accredited DNA provider every week, and we are getting them tested within 60 days," said Dana Kadavy, executive director of the Forensic Science Bureau at APD.
The city just received a 3 year grant from the bureau of justice assistance to help aid in any untested sex assault kits. Three-hundred thousand dollars will go toward the forensics department and their efforts to expedite the CODIS review process.
CODIS is what matches DNA with possible offenders. "It's going to decrease the timeline that we can achieve justice for these victims significantly like up to ten fold," said Kadavy.
The news is welcomed by the SAFE Alliance, which services people experiencing domestic violence, rape or abuse. "It's important to survivors to know, if they take the important step of having a sexual assault exam and getting evidence collected, that that evidence will be treated with respect, it will be handled expeditiously, and that it'll be tested," said Juliana Gonzales, director of sexual assault and health services, SAFE Alliance.
The police department said it has received all the reports from the backlogged kits and now they are looking forward to matching DNA to the rapists, using these funds.
They are taking steps to avoid a backlog ever in the future. "The Austin Police Department has dedicated funds and city council has approved our proposal to compile a series of contracts and inter-local agreements with local providers to make sure we never get in this position again," said Kadavy.
If you need assistance, contact the SAFE Alliance at 512-267-SAFE.