The NC Rape Kit backlog, which according to Roy Cooper in 2016 was not supposed to exist anymore, is back in the news. The state’s attorney general took a break from blocking media records requests and held a press conference about the backlog last week.
Attorney General Josh Stein held a press conference last week announcing a federal grant that would help pay for the rape kit backlog in North Carolina.
Since 2003, when Roy Cooper was Attorney General, he’s been claiming he’s been on top of clearing the backlog of sexual assault kits across the state.
Noelle Talley, who is now a Deputy Communications Director for Governor Cooper was Cooper’s Department of Justice spokeswoman in 2016. She told WRAL in 2016 that “There’s no backlog figure because there is no backlog.”
WRAL fact-checked a TV Ad used by Cooper while running for Governor in 2016. The key claim they looked at was this one:
“When I became attorney general, we discovered a backlog of more than 5,000 DNA test kits and years worth of shoddy investigations,” Cooper acknowledges. “But what Gov. McCrory isn’t telling you is that we cleared the backlog. We also solved over 2,000 crimes and put killers and rapists in prison from cold cases. We fixed the problems at the crime lab.”
Cooper conflates the Crime Lab’s various failings with rape kit testing and he changes rape test kits to “DNA test kits.”
Since winning the Governorship, not a single media outlet has revisited Roy Cooper’s claims of having ‘cleared the backlog’.
Josh Stein since assuming the role of Cooper’s old job, has attempted to deflect his responsibility for it and that of his predecessor onto the legislature.
“Sens. Shirley Randleman (R-Wilkes), Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston), Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth), Tamara Barringer (R-Wake), Cathy Dunn (R-Davidson), Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga) and Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) issued the following joint statement:
“Under Democratic and Republican budgets dating back to the 2003-04 budget, state taxpayer money was set aside to test these rape kits. And it is unconscionable that during his sixteen years as attorney general, Gov. Cooper not only failed to heed the pleas of rape victims like the woman who said the untested kits were ‘the next stab in my heart’, but then lied to the people of North Carolina and said he had fixed the problem.
According to EndTheBacklog, North Carolina has the largest number of untested rape kits in the country with over 15,000. The only other state that comes close is Georgia with over 10,000.
Diving deeper into that 15,000 number
As it turns out, that report includes information that puts the untested rape kit backlog higher than the over 15,000 Stein has been claiming.
Here are the key sections of the NC DOJ report with the page number included:
- “The SCL received reports from 92 percent of the state’s LEAs. While the vast majority of LEAs complied with the requirement, some did not respond despite the SCL’s best efforts.” (p.8)
- “DPS reported 862 unreported/anonymous kits in its custody in its Law Enforcement Support Services (LESS) warehouse. These 862 are in addition to the 390 unreported/anonymous kits in the possession of LEAs noted in the chart above.” (p.9)
- “The reporting period for this audit opened on July 1, 2017, with a suspense date of no later than December 31, 2017 and a reporting date of March 1, 2018 for the SCL. Therefore, the survey, though comprehensive and informative, is
already out of date.” (p.9)
The addition of 862 more kits means that the total is 16,052, not 15,160.
According to the NC DOJ’s report, the average cost to test a kit is $700.
Stein used 15,160 to calculate the cost landing at $10.6 million. If one uses the true number of 16,052 then that price jumps to $11,236,400.
And don’t forget the other 8% of law enforcement agencies who did not report at all. Several of those who did not report include community colleges or universities.
Police Departments or entities not reporting in alphabetical order:
Andrews, Cameron, Catawba, Chadbourn, Edenton, Elk Park, Fair Bluffs, Foxfire Village, Gaston, Glen Alpine, Grover, Highlands, Jackson, Jefferson, Jonesville, Kenly, Lake Waccamaw, Laurel, Laurinburg, Leland, Lilesville, Littleton, Madison, Marshville, Morven, Murphy, Nash Community College, Newton, Northwest, Old Fort, Pembroke, Ranlo, RDU Police, Rich Square, Rose Hill, Seaboard, SouthportStovall, Wallace, West Jefferson, Whitakers, Wilkes Community College, Wilmington International Airport, Wilson Community College, Wingate, Winston Salem University, Winston, Woodfin
Backlogs in the Hundreds and Thousands
So which law enforcement agencies have the biggest backlogs? Durham had the most with 1,711, followed by Raleigh at 1,428 and Winston Salem with 1,339.
Winston Salem 1,339
High Point 215
New Hanover 159
Rocky Mount 144