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More Than 1,000 Rape Kits Remain Backlogged In PA, Some Dating As Far Back As The 1990s

Pat Sullivan
Forensic analyst Karen Gincoo checks over a tray of rape kit evidence vials in the biology lab at the Houston Forensic Science Center Thursday, April 2, 2015, in Houston.

Since 2016, roughly 700 backlogged rape kits have been tested in Pennsylvania. But the remaining number hovers around 1,200, with some untested kits dating back to the 1990s.

"We are making progress," Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said in a press release. "Since 2016, 700 Pennsylvanians received answers about their rape kits. Sexual assault victims deserve justice and testing the kits provides them a chance for justice."

DePasquale has urged Gov. Tom Wolf and the state legislature to increase funding in the budget to address the remaining kits. He's asking for $1.2 million to be allocated to the cause.

Kristen Houser from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape says it's important to test the kits in a timely manner because many people who commit sexual assaults do so repeatedly.

"That's why it's so important that we have everybody on the same page," Houser said. "Collecting these kits and processing them is not just about the case immediately being reported, but it may have implications for other unsolved cases elsewhere."

But delays often occur, according to Houser.

"We definitely know part of the lag time in processing rape kits is quite simply not having enough people involved in the facilities and equipment to actually process those kits," she said. 

In 2016, the auditor general's office released a report on the state's untested rape kits, which found insufficient communication between law enforcement agencies and lack of resources were key reasons why kits remained untested for so long. 

One of the state's three largest public crime labs is Allegheny County's Office of the Medical Examiner. In 2015, the General Assembly passed Act 27, which established stricter timelines for law enforcement to collect rape kits and send them out for testing. According to DePasquale, the state failed to provide any additional resources for the labs to test the incoming kits.