The city of Houston, Texas has finally begun testing decades-old rape kits – and in just one week, those have led to hundreds of leads.
Houston is one of the first of the major cities nation-wide to clear their backlog of over 6,000 untested rape kit s- some of which were more than thirty years old. So far, the evidence from these test kits has lead to 850 DNA matches, 29 filed cases, and 6 convictions. Police are continuing to review evidence from the kits to see if charges can be made in other cases. The city was able to process the untested kits with the help of a $4.4 million plan approved by the Houston City Council last year.
“This milestone is of special importance to rape survivors and their families and friends because it means their cases are receiving the attention they should have years ago,” said Houston Mayor Annie Parker at a news conference.
Cities across the country possess thousands of untested and unprocessed rape kits. Six years ago, it was discovered that the city of Detroit had over 11,000 untested rape kits in an abandoned police storage unit. Since then, the Detroit police department has been working to eliminate the backlog, and have processed over 2,500 of the kits. In Memphis, there are almost 12,000 untested rape kits. There are over 4,000 in Las Vegas. Last November, Cyrus Vance, the district attorney of Manhattan pledged $35 million to try to eliminate the backlog of up to 70,000 untested rape kits nationwide.
“This is not a Houston problem,” Parker said in her remarks. “It’s not a Texas problem. It’s a nationwide issue that built up over years and years.” If Houston and Detroit’s example illustrates anything, it’s how important it is for the entire nation to work to fix it.
Media Resources: NY Mag 2/24/15; Huffington Post 2/24/15; NPR 2/10/15; BBC 2/4/15; Associated Press 11/15