In case you missed it, North Carolina has such a large untested rape kit backlog that we are ranked number one in the country – and that’s after a batch of 800 were recently cleared.
In January, I wrote about the 15,160 untested rape kits in North Carolina. That number was provided by a 2017 report published by the North Carolina Department of Justice in March of 2018 and is not an accurate total. Only 92 percent of law enforcement agencies responded to the inventory request and 46 agencies did not respond at all.
North Carolina has cleared about 800 of these kits, but we are still number one in the country. Behind our state are California (13,615), Florida (13,435), Georgia (10,314) and Tennessee (9,062).
This past week, the Civitas Institutes invited me to join their CiviTalk podcast to talk about the rape kit backlog. We discussed the high number of untested kits, the money which has started to come in to start clearing this backlog and stories starting to crop up looking at local level details of some of the untested kits.
North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein inherited this backlog from his predecessor, our Governor Roy Cooper. On CiviTalk, I remarked on how local media outlets have failed to ask Cooper about it.
If one looks, the rape kit backlog has an excruciatingly long history. Attorney General Roy Cooper pledged to clear the rape kit backlog in 20o3 and when Cooper ran for governor in 2016 his campaign’s spokesperson said there “is no backlog.”
Attorney General Josh Stein told ABC 11 in May of 2017 that he had cut the state crime lab backlog which includes rape kits from “52,000” to “9,000.” Yet, the report from the NC DOJ on the rape kits would show 15,160.
Less than a year later on February 28, 2018, Stein issued a press release announcing that the rape kit backlog inventory was 15,160. It’s interesting to note that the report cover is dated March 1, 2018.
Stein should get credit for the $4 million in grant money and the $2 million he sought from the Governor’s Crime Commission for kit testing purposes. He should also get credit for supporting legislation to secure another $6 million, but Roy Cooper should get credit for the mess he left behind.
A question during the CiviTalk podcast came up that I had not dug into yet – do any states have zero backlog or low backlogs and how are they doing that?
Kentucky and Oregon reported ‘recurring inventories’, only Kentucky had appropriated funds for clearing such a backlog, but all three have one thing in common – A tracking system for rape kits.
The number of untested kits was listed as “unknown” for almost a dozen states which include Alabama, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wyoming, and Washington D.C.