AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - A big factor in the backlog of rape kit testing in Texas was logistical in nature. Simply put, a lot got lost.
Juliana Gonzales with SAFE Alliance was among those pushing for a better way to track the kits. "There's a lot of pitfalls in the system as it stands right now, but definitely the lab testing part of the test is often where survivors get stuck.” said Gonzales.
To keep things moving, state lawmakers made the creation of a statewide tracking system mandatory two years ago. A program from Delaware based STACSDNA was purchased by DPS.
The tracking starts at the hospital. From there, every move is documented.
Each step can be followed by logging online.
Access is restricted to doctors, cops, lab techs, prosecutors, the company and the survivor.
"I think this is about good procedural form to be honest with you. We can get a packaged shipped and track it to the minute, when its delivered. I think the state would do well to have the same level of accountability on its forensic evidence in criminal justice proceedings,” said Gonzales.
With the program set to go online statewide in September, DPS is currently doing a test run. It started on June 10, in a limited number of cities. Austin is not one of them.
The cities in the pilot program are Amarillo, Arlington, El Paso, Houston and Lubbock. DPS Project coordinator Rebecca Vieh told FOX 7 the roll out has been smooth except in a few hospitals.
The problem they encountered was expected, according to Vieh. “The system sends out an automated e-mail to the different user groups to give them access to track it, so it obviously, especially with the medical facilities we've run into some firewall issues we had to work through with their IT Departments.”
Another pending issue will be replacing all the existing rape kits.
New boxes, with bar codes printed on them, are being designed by Texas A&M. DPS will provide stickers with bar codes and information cards for the kits still in use.
Everything according to Vieh should be in place by the end of August. "We are cautiously optimistic because of the overwhelming support that we've had across the state from all the different user groups,” said Vieh.
Juliana Gonzales is also pleased with how the roll out is going so far.
"I’m cautiously optimistic too,” said Gonzales.
An extra fail-safe has also been set up for those victims who forget their passwords and security clues. Victims will be able to go to their doctors or the investigators working their case to reset passwords.
The rape kit tracking system is currently being used in Michigan and Washington.
It’s about to go online in Arizona and Nevada.