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13,000+ Florida rape kits remain untested

Posted: 6:36 PM, Jan 04, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-04 18:37:19-05

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement report revealed Monday that more than 13,000 rape kits in Florida are still waiting to be processed.

These kits have been piling up on the shelves of law enforcement departments all over the state because there simply aren't enough resources to test all of them.

While some Bay Area departments are doing better than others, the bottom line is that it's going to cost millions to get caught up.

“One out of six women in Florida are sexually assaulted,” said Kathleen Kempke, who is the director of sexual assault services at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

About 350 rape kits are collected at just that center each year.

A new FDLE study shows 13,435 sexual assault kits in Florida that have been collected have yet to be tested.

“I think it's devastating. I think when they come in here, like any crime, they expect the prosecution or the investigation to move forward,” said Kempke. 

In large departments in the Bay Area, where agencies do their own testing, the backlog is far less than among agencies where FDLE does all the testing.

Tampa Police Department reported only 11 untested kits.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has none.

But the Lakeland Police Department had 314 untested kits, the Polk County Sheriff's office had 281 and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office reported 250.

Kempke says every kit should be tested every time, or communities will remain at risk.

“Offenders don't stay in one community. They move around. So, I think having everyone be on the same page is really important,” she said.

Testing all those kits will be expensive.

The study says it could cost as much as $32 million and take up to nine years to address the backlog.

Governor Rick Scott says he's committed to making sure that happens.

“I've put $8.5 million in my budget. The survey suggests more money, so I'll continue to work with the House and the Senate to make sure that FDLE is fully funded,” Gov. Scott said.

The report suggests hiring more technicians to address the backlog, as well as use some outside contractors to help the state catch up.

Where the backlogs have been cleared in the past, the results have been very promising.

When 17,000 kits were tested in New York, law enforcement managed to get about 2,000 hits from the National DNA Database.

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