Alameda DA reduces rape testing backlog

After significantly reducing its rape kit backlog, Alameda County is pushing the FBI to streamline the way sexual assault evidence is processed and is hoping to become a model for rape kit processing around the nation.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley partnered with local law enforcement agencies to unearth all untested rape kits in the county, revealing more than 1,900 untested rape kits in Alameda County, according to the district attorney’s office.

The kits were methodically examined and over the past six months an initial batch was sent for testing either to a private government-certified lab in Virginia or to the Oakland Police Department’s crime lab.

Of the kits that were tested, 55 percent contained sufficient DNA samples to develop a profile to upload to the national database CODIS. The district attorney’s office said Tuesday that so far, 62 percent of the profiles uploaded to CODIS matched a known offender whose DNA was already contained in the database.

O’Malley is now in talks with the FBI to allow Alameda County to become the first pilot project to streamline the technical review process after the testing of the kit by a private lab.

Congressman Mike Honda, D-San Jose, is also encouraging the FBI to review its policies about allowing Rapid DNA and private labs to assist with testing samples from suspects in order to help address the rape kit backlog across the country.

Congressman Honda said he is devastated “to hear that there are an estimated 500,000 untested rape kits collecting dust in the evidence rooms of law enforcement and crime labs” nationwide.

O’Malley said:

“Honda’s work to secure federal funding for this work is critical to eliminate backlogged kits in counties throughout the nation and to ensure future timely testing of all kits in Alameda County, statewide and nationwide.”

Honda said:

“Violent crimes, such as sexual assault, result in emotional and physical trauma that can last over a lifetime. Reducing the backlog is about saving people from indescribable pain and ensuring those who violate others are brought to justice.”

O’Malley has met with federal lawmakers and the Vice President’s Office to secure national funding, with $41 million allocated in the 2015 federal budget specifically for the testing of rape kits, according to the district attorney’s office.