On the heels of the governor’s office announcing it cleared its rape kit backlog from the State Crime Lab, the City of Albuquerque says it is getting closer to accomplishing the same at its own lab.
Mayor Tim Keller and his team made the announcement Sunday that they have tested nearly 3,000 rape kits, a massive difference from this time last year.
In 2017, the City of Albuquerque had only submitted 170 of their more than 5,000 untested rape kits.
That led Mayor Keller to sign an executive order requiring that the Albuquerque Police Department and the Sexual Assault Evidence Response Team come up with a plan to have the kits tested as quickly as possible.
The department says nearly half of the kits collected have been tested and they hope to have them done by 2020.
“Ending this backlog is a public safety issue whether it’s honoring that promise for victims or it’s actually getting justice and trying to get those perpetrators off of the street even if they don’t live in our community,” says Mayor Keller.
The City says it will clear 130 rape kits every month.
APD is also adding two additional officers to the sex crimes unit, which is changing how it will dispose of unsolved case rape kits.
The city will also be seeking funding from the state.
“We are seeking $650,000 to contract with DNA robotics vendors which would reduce processing times of freeing up scientists to perform other important tasks,” said Sarita Nair, city of Albuquerque Chief Admin Officer. “As well as replacing aging scientific equipment.”
The director of the Albuquerque SANE collaborative says it’s a good start, but it’s the just the beginning of a long journey.
“That’s the easy part. Sending them out to the lab and having the lab do it, we have funding for that,” said Teresa D’Anza, Albuquerque SANE collaborative director. “The more difficult part and the part that will take us many, many, more years is to determine which of these cases can go on for possible prosecution.”
So far, the kits that have been tested have resulted in a 20 percent “hit rate,” meaning the offender’s DNA matched a profile in the national database.
As for prosecuting those cases, so far 14 have been reviewed and four are headed to the DA’s office.
In the next year, Albuquerque SANE collaborative and the city also want to roll out an app to help victims track the progress of their kit.