State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

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Auditor General praises dwindling rape kit backlog

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 11, 2019 7:33 PM
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Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, flanked by sexual assault survivor Samantha Fullam and Kristen Houser of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania's auditor general said Thursday that the commonwealth is making good progress working through its backlog of untested rape kits.

He cautioned, however, that there needs to be some investment from the state to make sure they don't pile up again.

In 2015, the Department of Health reported more than 1,800 rape kits collected in Pennsylvania had been sitting, untested, for at least a year. There were over 3,000 untested kits total.

Rape kits are the collections of evidence taken from sexual assault victims that can help identify their attackers.

After the initial DOH report, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale did his own digging the following year and found the kits were being shelved due to short-staffing and a lack of equipment, among other things.

He emphasized, one of the reasons they need to be processed quickly is to prevent future crimes.

That didn't happen with one sex offender who raped a woman in Philadelphia.

"He then moved to North Dakota, where he sexually assaulted a teenager he met online," DePasquale said. "Now imagine you were that teenage girl. Your life could have been completely different."

Since the reports in 2015 and 2016, state police, counties, and local law enforcement have gotten cash infusions from the state budget, outside groups, and federal programs. And DePasquale said it has helped a lot.

"As of December 31 2018, The Pennsylvania State Police crime lab had zero backlogged kits," he said.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office still has 94 backlogged kits, and DePasquale reported there are 245 more in police offices around the state.

In his pitch for next year's budget, Governor Tom Wolf requested about a million dollars for rape kit testing.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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