Thousands of rape kits sent to Missouri crime labs for testing are not being tested, sometimes for nearly a year.
An exclusive CBS News investigation found thousands of rape kits nationwide are languishing on the shelves, even for years.
We asked local sex crimes experts about what’s happening in the St. Louis area.
St. Louis City and County Police each has a crime lab. The Missouri Highway Patrol handles testing for area municipalities. It has the most kits, and the most backups.
Nearly 500 kits are waiting to be processed. The average turnaround time is six months, but it can be as long as eleven.
St. Louis City has about seventy kits waiting to be processed and about two hundred twenty-five being tested now.
Rape counselor Gina Howe of SafeConnections says victims who choose to prosecute go through the collection of evidence, watching their sometimes ripped and bloody clothing pub in bags, and enduring exams on private parts.
“ In order to have the evidence collected and to watch that is difficult. So you do have an expectation of something being done with that evidence.”
And when it’s not…
“During this period of time we’re waiting, we’re thinking, who else is this person raping?”
In the St. Louis area, backups are blamed on a lack of resources. Federal grant money pays for two additional lab technicians to process just the backlog in the city.
Police and Prosecutors say the issue is complicated. Better technology and crime scene work also means more samples to test. Rape isn’t the only crime producing biological evidence. Unlike on CSI, processing DNA takes weeks.
Kathleen Hanrahan, Executive Director of the St. Louis Regional Sexual Assault Center says since Missouri passed a lot requiring most felons to undergo DNA testing, cold rape cases are being solved. She says the backlog of testing is a real problem that is leaving women in St. Louis vulnerable to sexual attack while rapists remain on the streets.