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Backlog of thousands of rape kits to be tested

More than 6,000 women in Clark County have survived sexual assault nightmares only to have their rape kit sit in a vault somewhere, untested.

But, that will change.

Nevada now has $5.6 million in grant money to pay for crime-lab processing of rape kits on backlog.

A Rape kits contains evidence and biological specimens collected from people who say they were sexually assaulted. But a lack of resources means many remain untested, and cases remain unsolved.

For a rape victim, it's disturbing to know a predator could still be preying on others.

There are 7,500 rape kits on backlog statewide, with 6,300 in Clark County.

"Those samples represent a person, a friend, a sister, a brother," said Daniele Dreitzer, Rape Crisis Center.

 Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced Thursday that Nevada would get up to $2 million from the White House and the New York City prosecutor's office. His office also plans to apply $1.7 million it received in a settlement toward the cause, and Las Vegas police announced they were getting $2 million of their own.

"If we're able to link case to case and prove a pattern, it will get some really dangerous people off the streets," Dreitzer said.

But Nevada has no process in place to keep from falling behind again.

In March, a statewide sexual assault kit working group, who applied for this grant, began working on solutions to that problem.

"The goal is that we'll have policies in place as a state that will make sure that kits are tested always going forward," Laxalt said.

 Read more from Las Vegas Now Here.

Grants to help Nevada clear backlog of sex assault DNA kits

More than 7,000 DNA kits that have been stagnating in police fridges and files across Nevada for as long as 30 years will finally get tested.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced Thursday morning that the state will receive up to $5.6 million to outsource the state's 7,500 sexual assault evidence kits, 6,300 cases from Southern Nevada.

Nearly $4 million of the fund comes from national grants: the Bureau of Justice Administration's Sex Assault Kit Initiative grant is worth $1.9 million for the state, and the New York County district attorney's office is awarding Las Vegas police $2 million from a $35 million pot for sexual assault DNA tests from the county's forfeitures and seizures.

Laxalt's office is devoting an additional $1.7 million from a Bureau of Consumer Protection settlement to make sure every kit in the state's backlog is tested. Laxalt will present the settlement funds to the Interim Finance Committee for approval.

Tackling the backlog was one of the attorney general's campaign promises, and he said that the issue is significant for multiple reasons. Laxalt said that he sympathizes with the victims and that there is a good chance that the DNA testing will lead to the identification of serial offenders.

"I think we now know you have to test them all," he said. "Even if you don't have a victim that wants to move forward and doesn't want to support them, you may find out, 'Oh, well it turns out this person is connected to three other assaults.'"

"They went through not only the trauma of the assault but they went through the three- to four-hour testing process in order to provide evidence for future prosecutions," Laxalt said. "This is something we need to continue to press for, for those victims and for our community. We need to get to these backlogs because we believe lining these stacks of untested rape kits are serial rapists."

At the news conference, Laxalt joined Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, the Rape Crisis Center's Danielle Dreitzer and others to discuss a statewide working group's plans for putting the grant money to work.

"I'm very excited," Kim Murga, Metro's director of forensic laboratory services, said. "Now the work starts."

And it's a lot of work. The Southern Nevada lab alone is looking at about 63 years worth of work in the rape kit backlog — it typically processes about 100 DNA tests per year, she said.

Read more from the Las Vegas Review-Journal here.

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