New untested rape kits increase in Ore. despite efforts
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The number of new untested rapes kits in Oregon has continued to increase despite efforts to process an old backlog faster.
Half of the 2,800 untested rape kits sent to Utah last year have been processed, but that work was not enough to put the state back on track, The Statesman Journal reported.
Oregon State Police reported a backlog of 884 newly submitted assault forensic evidence kits as of April. That number has quadrupled from 216 in January 2016.
"I don't know why it's increasing, but agencies are obviously submitting more," said Bill Fugate, a spokesman with Oregon State Police.
Marion County Deputy District Attorney Katie Suver said the increase is due to a new state law that requires all untested rape kits be tested, even those prepared years ago that have been shelved by law enforcement agencies.
Oregon lawmakers passed the law in 2016, known as Melissa's Law, which mandates state crime labs process the old backlog of untested, shelved rape kits.
The kits contain evidence collected at hospitals when someone says they have been a victim of sexual assault. The biological samples can be tested against suspected attackers or used to back up court testimony.
Lawmakers also set aside $1.5 million to hire nine crime lab analysts. The new analysts will complete their training by the end of December, Fugate said.
Using grants, a number of Oregon law enforcement agencies and district attorney's offices sent 2,800 untested kits to a Utah laboratory for testing in April 2016.
Of those, about 1,432 have been analyzed among Multnomah, Marion and Lane counties, said Amity Girt, a Multnomah County deputy district attorney.
Testing on the remaining kits is expected to be complete by January 2018, Girt said.