There are 2,369 rape kits sitting on Virginia shelves untested, says the Washington Post in an editorial, saying the situation involves “2,369 crime victims who, after experiencing the trauma of sexual assault, submitted to an intrusive and painstaking examination designed to collect DNA evidence and identify a perpetrator.” The newspaper says an unknown number of rapists might have been caught but have walked free, calling it “a failure on the part of Virginia police departments and a symptom of a national epidemic.”
The federal government has estimated that hundreds of thousands of kits languish on evidence shelves across the nation. Cities including New York and Detroit that have tested backlogged kits have reduced crime rates and identified serial rapists. Many states, strapped for lab space and funding, are struggling to work through their backlogs. Congress appropriated $41 million last year to a Justice Department competitive grant program in which states may secure funding by detailing their plans for rape kit reform. This year, the House approved $45 million for the same purpose, and the Senate looks likely to fund the program at last year's $41 million level, if not higher. Congress's final budget is expected to include $117 million for DNA testing and increasing crime lab capacity under the Debbie Smith Act, at least 5 percent of which is supposed to go to backlog reduction.