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Trib editorial: No excuse for state's backlog of untested rape kits

| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale

More than 1,200 potential rape victims across Pennsylvania have been left waiting in an intolerable limbo of law enforcement because the invasive rape kits to which they consented have sat untested in crime labs and police storage rooms. Equally intolerable is how this backlog grew while funding to keep up with kit testing apparently didn't.

It should never have reached this point.

By law, testing is supposed to be completed within six months. Some of the backlog dates to the 1990s, according to a Trib report.

In 2016, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale flagged Pennsylvania's rape-kit backlog in an audit that found only a third of about 1,000 police agencies were complying with state law. He has called on Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature to allocate more funding for kit testing in 2018-19. And last year, Mr. Wolf increased the allocation by nearly $2.5 million, according to a spokesman.

But funding should have kept pace to meet the increasing number of untested rape kits. Now, Mr. DePasquale said, “it will likely take years to effectively eliminate Pennsylvania's backlog at the current pace.”

The state has reduced its backlog from 1,800 untested rape kits last year, and testing can lead to identifying criminals, DePasquale said. Meanwhile, potential sexual offenders, who often are repeat offenders, remain free.

Failure to keep up with the caseload, when the means to identify potential rapists sits in storage, is inexcusable.

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