Could system that tracks rape kits help end the backlog in Washington?
A system that tracks rape kits is now fully operational across Washington state.
With a reported backlog of over 6,400 untested rape kits, Washington state crime labs have been overwhelmed. Those kits were booked into evidence, but never sent to a lab for DNA evidence, and now, there’s a system in place that looks to hold the entire chain of command accountable.
Each rape kit in the state now has a unique bar code that makes it easy to track it through every stage in the testing process.
“We can track where it came from, who has it, what’s being done with it, is it finished, is it back in the police property room,” Larry Herbert, the director of the Washington State Patrol’s forensic lab, told KIRO Radio.
State Patrol says the online system should reassure survivors that evidence has not been lost, destroyed, or forgotten about.
The new system makes the tracking information available to medical staff, law enforcement, prosecutors, and even sexual assault survivors themselves. Victims can track these kits anonymously online through the system’s online portal.
The pilot program has been gradually rolled out since January 2018, beginning in Pierce County, moving to the Marysville area last spring, Olympia and Vancouver over the summer, Spokane and Kennewick this fall, and then finally the greater Seattle area on October 22.
While hundreds of thousands of rape kits remain untested nationwide, the hope in Washington is that tracking technology will at least be a step in the right direction.
A handful of other states have even begun using similar technology, including Arizona, Idaho, Ohio, and Texas. Others like New York, Colorado, Illinois, and more have instituted mandatory testing of either new or backlogged kits.