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Our Opinion: Redouble efforts on untested rape kits

Our Opinion: Redouble efforts on untested rape kits

News Tribune editorial

June 12th, 2019 by News Tribune in Opinion

We call on the Missouri Highway Patrol to redouble its efforts to address the problem of a growing number of untested rape kits at the patrol's crime lab.

The Kansas City Star reported the number of untested rape kits with the patrol's crime lab has more than doubled since last August, when a new law requiring police to submit kits within 14 days took effect.

The newspaper reported, as of May, 1,403 kits were untested, compared with 179 last August.

That's simply not acceptable.

Submitting to a rape test is invasive and time-consuming. Victims who do so deserve, at the very least, to have them tested.

Rape kits are often needed to gain DNA samples that can lead to convictions.

This spring, the New York Times reported about a case in which a woman's rape kit went untested for years until 2017, when a detective knocked on her door. He explained that a grant from the Manhattan district attorney's office had helped the Tucson authorities clear a backlog of untested rape kits.

Her kit was one of the ones tested, and it led to a suspect. That man was subsequently convicted of attacking her and six other women.

The Associated Press reported there were 4,889 untested rape kits across the state, according to a report published last year by the Missouri attorney general's office. Five labs, 66 hospitals and 266 law enforcement departments sent responses for that survey. Other agencies didn't, so it's likely the figure was higher, the AP reported.

There remains "quite a bit of work to do in Missouri," said Ilse Knecht, director of policy and advocacy for Joyful Heart, whose objective is to alter society's response to sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and support survivors.

We're pleased to say that some of the work is being done.

As the AP reported, MSHP Crime Lab Director Brian Hoey said many changes have been implemented to address the growing number of kits at the patrol's lab. Also, the Missouri attorney general's office received a $2.8 million federal grant that is being used to compile a list of untested kits.

Those are positive steps, but we ask the patrol, along with lawmakers and other state officials, to seek solutions to quicken the process.

News Tribune