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O.C. moves to clear backlog of unprocessed rape kits

Ben Brazil

Los Angeles Times

February 13, 2020

The Orange County Board of Supervisors this week took a step toward processing the county’s substantial backlog of rape kits when it approved a $612,000 contract with a third-party forensics tester.

Virginia-based Bode Technology will test 1,500 of the county’s 1,700 untested rape kits. The O.C. Crime Lab will test the remaining kits.

“It’s a horrible thing that happened to these women. There needs to be action taken so we can get justice,” said Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney.

The $612,000 going toward Bode is left over from a previous grant. Edds said the D.A. will seek further grant funding for the testing, which is estimated to cost about $1.2 million.

The county’s rape kit backlog has been accumulating for decades, a problem plaguing the entire state. No reliable estimate exists for the number of backlogged rape kits in California.

Last year, the state passed a law requiring rape kits to be processed within 120 days after they’re received. Edds said the oldest untested kit in Orange County dates to 1977.

When asked why some rape kits have gone untested for more than four decades, Edds pointed to lack of funding.

“It’s a resource problem where there’s only so much that can be done,” she said. “If you have this kit from 1977, you have other higher priority kits that keep pushing that down in the list. It’s not an excuse, but that’s why this is such a priority to get this taken care of, because every case is important and every victim is important.”

Edds said another issue with getting rape kits tested is that police departments don’t promptly send the kits to the O.C. Crime Lab, which performs the testing in the county.

The new state law requires the kits to be submitted within 20 days after they are received by law enforcement.

The rectification of the rape kit backlog is a joint effort by Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer and Supervisor Don Wagner.

“Clearing the backlog of sexual assault kits has been a priority of mine since I was a county supervisor, and I have doubled down on that commitment,” Spitzer said recently. “The district attorney’s office is fully invested in getting these untested kits tested to provide these victims justice and a safer Orange County. I am pleased Supervisor Wagner requested the additional funds needed to close the backlog gap.”

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