The number of DNA samples from rapes and other serious offenses that sit untested at the Illinois crime lab for more than 30 days remains alarmingly high four years after former Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared the problem had been eliminated, reports the Chicago Tribune. In 2005, the year Blagojevich proclaimed the DNA backlog gone, it included at least 170 cases. Today, 1,167 cases are taking more than a month to analyze, with nearly half of the DNA samples from rape kits, a Tribune review of lab statistics found. Sexual assault victims and law-enforcement officials say it can take as long as a year for DNA to be analyzed at the Illinois State Police Crime Lab, the third-largest forensic laboratory in the world.
The delays in testing, underreported for years by the state police, have hindered investigations and prosecutions throughout the state, says a five-year review of the crime lab by the Illinois auditor general. In some cases, criminals remained on the street free to commit more crimes, according to the audit, which didn’t cite examples. The findings come at a time when major backlogs of untested rape kits — some older than a decade — were recently exposed in Los Angeles County, prompting promises of reforms. Confronted with a serious DNA backlog 10 years ago, New York City vowed to reduce it and now boasts a six-week turnaround time for rape kits, experts say.