The Los Angeles City Council voted Monday to approve funds to test the city’s enormous backlog of untested rape kits. Once the mayor approves the budget that authorizes these funds, up to 26 additional employees could be hired to process the kits and some testing could be outsourced to private labs, according to Human Rights Watch.
A Human Rights Watch report (see PDF) released in March found that there are at least 12,669 untested rape kits in Los Angeles County, the largest known backlog of its kind in the US. Of these, 499 kits are past the statute of limitations in California rape law and at least 1,218 are from unsolved cases where the attacker was a stranger. It is estimated that thousands more kits have been destroyed in LA County untested. A September 2008 LA city controller’s audit showed a backlog of approximately 7,000 kits.
Sarah Tofte, who authored the Human Rights Watch report responded to the vote: “The thousands of rape victims who went through the ordeal of providing the evidence, and then found out it was sitting in a freezer, will finally have a chance to see justice…. While the new money is a critical step toward eliminating the backlog of rape kits, it is certainly not the last step. We urge the City Council to use its oversight function to ensure that these funds translate into results, and monitor the speedy elimination of this problem.”