LA slowly overcoming rape kit backlog

LOS ANGELES A backlog at the Los Angeles County crime lab is quickly getting cleared up, allowing investigators to move ahead with thousands of rape cases.

As many as 10,000 rape kits went untested at the storage room because of a lack of money, commitment and scientists to test them. That has changed dramatically.

"We have every expectation that in the next few months both the sheriff's backlog and the LAPD'S backlog will be totally cleared up," said Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley.

The California Forensic Science Institute honored people like Cooley and Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck for their commitment to using DNA evidence in crime solving.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was also there. The mayor and the City Council committed the money to start clearing the backlog.

"Behind every untested kit there is a victim, a woman or a child," Villaraigosa said.

According to the mayor, there are 1,709 rape kits for which tests have not been completed. That is a long way from the thousands of only a few months ago.

There were some cases that could not be filed because of the backlog, some cold cases which could not be made.

Beck is given much of the credit for pushing the mayor and council to clear the backlog.

Beck said the possibility of allowing the backlog to increase again is unthinkable.

"It was just everybody realizing that the shame this brought to the city was untenable and that we cannot protect victims, and if we cannot provide justice to those we promise justice, then what are we?" Beck said.

According to the district attorney, the goal is a 24-hour turnaround on testing violent rape cases.

The testing is now under way in two pilot projects.

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