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Arizona Names Task Force to Identify Untested Rape Kits

A task force will spend the next year identifying the number of untested rape kits in Arizona police evidence rooms. (puravida/morguefile)
A task force will spend the next year identifying the number of untested rape kits in Arizona police evidence rooms. (puravida/morguefile)
January 18, 2016

PHOENIX - Gov. Doug Ducey has named a task force to identify the number of untested Sexual Assault Evidence Kits, also known as rape kits, sitting in law enforcement evidence rooms across Arizona.

In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Ducey charged the panel with counting the kits and developing a plan, including a funding request to eliminate the backlog. Shannon Rich, public policy director for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, says it's hard to know just how many kits are out there.

"There are over 2,000 kits that are untested in Maricopa County," says Rich. "As far as the rest of the state, we're not entirely sure, which is going to be one of the priorities for the task force, is to identify the scope of the problem."

Rich says the kits contain critical evidence collected from sexual assault victims, and can cost $2,000 to $3,000 each to process. She says some of them may have sat untested for as long as a decade.

According to Rich, the failure to process the evidence in these cases often further traumatizes the victim and sends a message that police don't consider sexual assault charges a priority. She says there are two reasons her group often hears for kits not being tested.

"One is funding. The tests aren't cheap and so, that can be an issue if the crime labs don't have the resources," says Rich. "The other, if the perpetrator has been already identified, they may not test the kit because they already know who the person is."

Even in cases where the suspect is known, she adds, it's important to get their DNA into a database in order to help identify serial rapists.

The Arizona task force is expected to complete its report by the end of the year.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ