Finally, Thousands of Old Rape-Evidence Kits Are to Be Tested
Thousands of evidence kits collected from rape victims that have sat untested for years in Texas can now be analyzed, thanks to an $11 million budget appropriation earmarked for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The line-item financing disbursement was passed as part of the state’s biennial budget during the regular 83rd legislative session. It follows the 2011 approval of related legislation filed by Senator Wendy Davis, Democrat of Fort Worth.
Senate Bill 1636 requires that the D.P.S. or a contractor test and keep information on forensic sexual-assault evidence that the department has received from other law enforcement agencies but has not been submitted for analysis, provided financing is available.
S.B. 1636 also requires that when requested, the department compare results from a newly tested rape kit with DNA information in the department’s custody.
The number of untested kits is unclear. Advocacy groups say that about 16,000 kits are sitting on shelves, according to data submitted by 136 law enforcement agencies across the state. But the D.P.S. estimates that the number is closer to 20,000. Department officials say their information comes from various law enforcement agencies, which may use different formulas to determine how many kits they have, thus leading to a discrepancy.