New Mexico crime lab clears rape kit backlog, governor says

December 15, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s crime lab has cleared a backlog of nearly 1,400 rape kits that can be crucial in assisting investigations into sexual assaults, Gov. Susan Martinez said Friday.

The governor said a combination of $1.2 million in grant funding and hiring two temporary forensic scientists helped officials clear the backlog of evidence kits that came to light following a 2015 audit.

At the time, the review revealed 5,300 rape kits had not been tested in New Mexico. Three-quarters of them were in Albuquerque police’s crime lab, which operates separately from the state lab.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller is expected to provide an update Sunday on the Police Department’s progress in clearing the backlog in the city crime lab.

In the past, Keller has blamed the backlog on a lack of training and equipment for police, as well as law enforcement’s attitudes toward victims.

A fifth of the kits reviewed in the statewide audit went untested because of a perceived lack of credibility on the part of the victim, he said. As a former state auditor, Keller issued reports underscoring the extent of the state backlog.

A city spokesman did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment Friday.

Martinez said the state’s remaining grant funding for processing rape kits will be made available to Albuquerque police.

Advocates say each kit takes authorities about 40 hours to process at a cost of $600 to $1,000. They typically contain DNA samples secured through victims’ medical exams. The results of the tests are supposed to be entered in the FBI’s Combines DNA Index System, a database that helps authorities identify suspects.

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