Los Angeles County has the largest rape kit backlog in the United States, according to a report released today by Human Rights Watch.
More than 50 reporters, rape kit advocates, city workers and cops gathered today at a 40-minute press conference outside Los Angeles City Hall to hear the bleak news. The report, “Testing Justice: The Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City and County,” revealed that there are more than 12,000 untested rape kits sitting in crime lab storage facilities in cities across the county.
Sarah Tofte of Human Rights Watch
“We know a lot about the numbers but we don't know a lot about the stories – the women,” said Sarah Tofte, a Human Rights Watch researcher who authored the 68-page study. “Those kits represent someone's decision to come forward.”
Those women trusted “that their rapist would be brought to justice,” she said.
The report also found that 1,218 of the untested rape kits were from
unsolved cases in which the attacker was a stranger. And 499 kits were
attached to cases where the 10-year statute of limitations for rape had
Sadly, the number of kits continued to grow yearly even though the
Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff
Department received millions of dollars in federal funds to reduce the
The L.A. Weekly reported on the DNA crisis
March 18, 2009, and found that in L.A. money now being spent on outside
testing labs will soon dry up, and lab workers entering the DNA-test
information into computers are stretched far too thin handling hundreds of new requests from detectives
to work on the rape kits. Critics argue that both the city and county
will need far more space, money and lab workers in order to combat the
11 am press conference drew a large crowd of reporters
At the 11 a.m. press conference, Tofte demanded that the two law
enforcement agencies test every rape kit within two years. She also
called on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles City Council, and
the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to pony up funds and
provide resources to the labs so they could get rid of the
unprecedented backlog and kits for the estimated 1,500 rapes that occur
yearly in the county.
“This is ridiculous,” stormed rape survivor Jeri Elster
about the colossal backlog. “We cannot stand for it…Why are the
responses as slow as a snail's pace?…It is a personal insult to all
of us. DNA has to be a priority.”
LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, who was standing next to Councilman
Jack Weiss, admitted to reporters that, in the past, “the
prioritization wasn't there.”
“It is about focus – which I have,” said Beck who is heading a task
force to combat the issue. However, Beck said that money talks.
“Without public support it won't happen,” he said. “If we don't have
adequate funding it will continue.”
The report also looked at the backlog in the 47 cities in Los
Angeles County that use the county crime lab for DNA analysis – with
some shocking findings. According to Human Rights Watch, the City of
Long Beach booked 1,911 rape kits into evidence in the past 15 years.
Of those, 51 were sent to the crime lab, an estimated 780 untested kits
were destroyed and 1,072 currently sit untested in a Long Beach police