Rape Kits Slowly Making Way Off Shelves
Posted September 4, 2003 4:30 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — There are still 20,000 rape kits sitting on shelves in North Carolina that need to be tested for DNA. Rape kits are the physical evidence that can positively link a suspect to a crime. There has been a backlog because, for years, there has not been enough DNA analysts at the state lab, but that is changing.
The Raleigh Police Department has rape kits on its shelves dating back 25 years. They have six rooms packed with evidence and are looking for more space.
"We don't get rid of them. We keep them on the hope that we would have something come forward and we'd have the evidence to lock someone up," said Raleigh Police Sgt. Stacey Deans.
Investigators are hopeful the SBI lab will start taking their rape kits soon.
"With getting some of these rape cases tested, we hope to get bad people off of the street," Deans said.
"It's absolutely, I would say, one of the most compelling pieces of evidence in rape cases because our society still suggests if we don't have physical evidence then the rape did not occur," said Monika Johnson Hostler, of the N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
The state has hired six new technicians to test DNA and they are in the process of being trained. Two other SBI employees have been moved from their jobs into the DNA lab.
Attorney General Roy Cooper helped get funding for more DNA analysts. He promises they will be ready any day now.
"We're working as fast as we can to put these people online. It is critical that we attack this problem immediately," he said.
Rape survivor Teresa Poole said she hopes Cooper is right because waiting for a DNA test leaves victims in limbo.
"That can affect their quality of life for the rest of their lives and keep them as victims and not give them the opportunity to be more than survivors but thrivers," she said.
Another big boost to investigators is the expansion of the DNA database. As of Oct. 1, all convicted felons in North Carolina will have to submit a DNA sample to the state. The information will be kept on file and could be matched with suspects in future crimes.