The Los Angeles Police Department says it has cleared a decades-old backlog of untested DNA evidence collected in rape and sexual assault cases, but that its laboratory remains too small to keep pace with the influx of new cases, the Los Angeles Times reports. The department came intense pressure in late from victim advocate groups and elected officials to address thousands of pieces of DNA evidence that had sat untouched in police storage freezers for years.
The department counted 6,132 untested “rape kits,” which contain samples of semen, blood, hair, or other genetic material from victims’ bodies and crime scenes. Analysis of the material can help identify perpetrators by matching DNA to the genetic profiles of felons stored in law enforcement databases. The police department spent the past two years scraping together federal grants, public funds and private donations to outsource the testing to private labs. Last year the department identified and arrested about 300 people using DNA evidence collected at crime scenes, mostly sexual assault or rape cases, said Capt. Kevin McClure. On average, about 125 new rape kits are submitted each month. Because of its size, the laboratory is capable of handling only about a fifth of the cases logged each month.