APD Touts Progress on Rape Kit Backlog

Police update community on what’s been done and what comes next

Nearly four months have passed since Council Member Greg Casar announced that the Austin Police Department’s massive backlog of rape kits had finally been tested. On Friday, Feb. 22, APD Assistant Chief Ely Reyes gave a short update on what’s been done and what comes next.

Austin police report having tested 2,665 kits, including these salvaged from the now-shuttered APD crime lab. (Photo courtesy of Mike Eveleth)

According to Reyes, of the 2,665 cases comprising the backlog, lab workers were able to get a DNA reading from about 35% of the tested specimens – considered a “positive result.” Once that’s accomplished, further testing is required: If there’s a known suspect, the DNA can either be compared for a “one-to-one match” or, if it meets the FBI’s requirements, entered into the national CODIS database where a potential match could be found. (Reyes could not clarify how the backlog dropped to 2,665 from the more than 4,000 kits reported when APD’s own DNA lab shut down in 2016.)

All cases with positive results are reviewed by the department’s Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit, formed in June 2017 and currently staffed with one sergeant and four detectives, to decide if the DNA evidence will provide additional leads. If so, the case is reassigned to an investigator for follow-up. The department hosts weekly meetings between this unit, APD Victim Services, and the Travis County District Attorney’s Office to discuss these cases. So far, about 1500 cases have been reviewed.

Reyes also said the department is on track to ensure another backlog doesn’t build up. Incoming rape kits are sent out within 30 days to labs who’ve contracted with APD for analysis, with the department receiving initial findings within 60 days thereafter. Victims, he said, are being notified on a case-by-case basis as cases are reopened; survivors wishing to check the status of their cases can call the Cold Case Unit directly at 512/974-5555, or email sexcrimesdna@austintexas.gov.

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Austin Police, rape kits, Ely Reyes, Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit, sexual assault

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