Information provided by Office of Congressman Mike Honda—
During the March 26 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing of the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA17) asked FBI Director James Comey to allow private labs to help process the backlog of rape kits that remain untested. The information learned in these tests is critical in identifying the assailants in these cases. It is estimated that as many as 500,000 rape kits across America are waiting to be tested.
At the hearing, Congressman Honda asked Director Comey to agree to a plan that would have the FBI eliminate the step of “technical review” by the local government labs. He also asked the FBI to allow Alameda County to serve as a pilot project for this plan. The Congressman had previously made this request in a letter written with Representatives Eric Swalwell and Barbara Lee.
Removing the “technical review” step in the rape kit process would significantly increase the number of kits that can be tested. A private lab, certified to work with the FBI and other government labs, can examine a minimum of 100 rape kits a month.
Current procedures require the government lab to then perform a technical review of the testing of the private lab. In Alameda County, the government lab can only do a technical review of 4 or 5 cases a month. The Congressman’s plan would require that the government lab only perform spot checks to ensure the private lab’s work met its standards.
Congressman Honda invited Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to attend the hearing. DA O’Malley has taken the lead locally, statewide, and nationally to create protocol and policy that would work to eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits. She also created the program that determined the number of untested rape kits in Alameda County.
“DA O’Malley has done great work in bringing attention to this problem,” Congressman Honda said. “She has also given us the first important steps towards solving it. I am grateful for all she has done, and hope that the FBI will allow Alameda County to be the first place in America to fully utilize outside resources that will speed up the process for finding, arresting, and convicting the perpetrators of sexual violence.”
“The FBI created an invaluable database where profiles of known offenders can be compared to DNA evidence collected through a forensic sexual assault examination, commonly referred to as a ‘rape kit,’” DA O’Malley said. “Yet, there are hundreds of thousands of rape kits that remain untested for a DNA profile of the perpetrator. Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to have her rape kit tested. Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to have the DNA profile uploaded into the national database in a timely manner. This evidence is vital to solving serial sexual assault crimes and preventing other persons from becoming more victims of a serial rapist. I am grateful to Congressman Honda for his leadership in advocating to the FBI Director that he work on solutions that allow for an efficient means of uploading offenders’ DNA profiles by utilizing rapid testing technology, testing every rape kit, and uploading DNA profiles into the national database. This proposal paves the way towards the elimination of the local, state, and national backlog of rape kits.”
According to the California Department of Justice, in 2012 there were 7,828 rapes reported in the state. In those cases, there were only 1,682 arrests, which is 21%. The FBI says that nationwide in 2012 there were 84,376 reported rapes, and only 18,098 arrests, which again is 21%.