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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

State finds 13,435 untested rape kits throughout Florida



More than 13,000 untested rape kits are in evidence rooms around the state of Florida, a new report released on Monday from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows.

In the most comprehensive report to date on the issue, FDLE says at least 9,484 of those kits “should be submitted” for testing to catalog DNA evidence that could be key in solving other cold cases and finding serial rapists.

But clearing that backlog carries a heavy price tag. FDLE officials said it could cost as much as $32 million and more than 8 years to get a handle on just the 6,661 kits that FDLE investigators have determined are within their jurisdiction, plus a surge of 2,000 more kits that came in since the start of 2015 when public attention on the unsubmitted kits grew. Those kits are in addition to 3,500 rape kits coming into FDLE annually.

The cost could be dramatically less - $8.1 million - if the state Legislature allows FDLE to outsource the rape kits, something key lawmakers have previously said they did not support.

But even those estimates don’t get to the whole problem. Not included in the report is how to clear  6,674 untested rape kits that are in counties that have their own crime labs like Pinellas County and Miami-Dade. Those places would need to seek their own funding to handle those backlogs.

The report also attempts to explain why kits are not being submitted. According to the survey of 279 local law enforcement agencies, 41 percent of the time kits were not submitted because a victim who first reports a crime refuses to participate in the investigation or prosecution of the case for reasons not explained in the report. In 31 percent of the cases, local officials say they did not test kits because the State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute in the case. In another 20 percent of the cases, a suspect had already pled guilty. Finally, another 18 percent were from “non-reporting” victims, a person who consented to a kit being collected but chose not to file a police report.

Public and political pressure has been growing nationwide to analyze untested rape kits to collect DNA evidence that can help solve past sexual assaults and other crimes. In Detroit, when the local officials tested 10,000 previously untested kits, it identified 652 potential serial rapists, and the testing had already resulted in dozens of convictions, as of October.

To assure Florida doesn’t have more untested kits languish in evidence rooms, FDLE is proposing the state adopt formal policies to require all rape kits get submitted to crime labs, except those from non-reporting victims, those who consented to the collection but did not file a police report.


[Last modified: Monday, January 4, 2016 10:12am]


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