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PNS Daily Newscast - December 15, 2017 


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Daily Newscasts

Albuquerque to Test Huge Rape Kit Backlog

New Mexico will receive $2.5 million in federal grants to help authorities make a dent in the backlog of thousands of untested rape kits. (ocrcc.org)
New Mexico will receive $2.5 million in federal grants to help authorities make a dent in the backlog of thousands of untested rape kits. (ocrcc.org)
October 10, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Victims of sexual assaults that occurred in Albuquerque more than 30 years ago may finally get justice now that decades-old rape kits will be tested. Albuquerque has been awarded federal grant money to get through the backlog of 3,800 untested kits.

The backlog is usually blamed on lack of resources at local police departments.

Connie Monahan the program coordinator for the state's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program, says only seven percent of the adult male population commits rape, so linking the DNA between victims and perpetrators is critical to getting them off the streets.

"And then to me, this is the most important reason why we test those kits - to prevent future sexual assaults," she says. "We need to create confidence in the system, that somebody who is raped today says you know what, I'm going to get evidence collected and I'm going to trust the system to act on my behalf."

Untested rape kits are not unique to Albuquerque; a state audit found New Mexico has the highest number of untested rape kits in the nation based on population.

Ilse Knecht, the policy and advocacy director of the rape-kit testing advocacy group, Joyful Heart, says this is the third year the federal government has invested money to address the issue and Albuquerque will receive one of the largest grants at $2.5 million.

"We applaud these communities," she says. "These are communities that have said yes, we have a problem, we want to address it, we're willing to put ourselves out there and lead on this issue and have accepted that there were some mistakes made in the past that need to be remedied."

The New Mexico legislature passed a reform bill last year designed to keep untested rape kits from sitting on shelves across the state. The Albuquerque city council has also passed a measure that will take effect next year requiring police officers to test kits within three months of receiving them.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM