Untested rape kit numbers may be going down


Many rape kits across the state have not been tested.

Last week, California lawmakers announced two bills to try and end the backlog of untested rape kits.

Sgt. Brian Holcombe of the Bakersfield Police Department said rape kits go untested for several reasons. The most common reasons are false reports and victims being too scared to go to court, but "untested" doesn't mean "forgotten."

"Even if we have untested or tested samples, we are still going back and looking for evidence in any way we can," said Holcombe.

According to End the Backlog, a campaign demanding rape kit reform, approximately 13,615 rape kits are untested in California, with 607 in Bakersfield.

"We receive approximately 200 to 250 sexual assault kits per year into the laboratory," said DNA annalist Garett Sugimoto.

The Kern Regional Crime Lab is where they process all sexual assault exams through a streamlined process, sometimes called a mini rape kit. They take a swab from the area most likely to have DNA of the suspect. Assembly Bill 1517 helped the county develop this rapid process.

"It's more than we've ever tested before ...," said Sugimoto.

A kit becomes backlogged once it's been in the lab for 60 days. But now, the backlog is getting smaller as technology improves and more laws are passed. Sugimoto said soon there shouldn't be a backlog at all.

"In the past, it’s been above 100 cases," he said. "We've recently worked it down to less than 10."

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