Tag Archives: Houston rape kit backlog

Houston Clears Rape Kit Backlog. Will Other Cities Follow?

It was a promise that Mayor Annise Parker made to Houstonians in 2013.  And on February 23rd of this year, that promise was fulfilled, as the city of Houston has now officially tested its backlog of over 6,600 rape kits.  Here’s more from the AP press release (via ABC News)…

Evidence from more than 6,600 rape kits that went untested for years in Houston have turned up 850 hits in the FBI’s nationwide database of DNA profiles, marking a major step in the city’s $6 million effort to address the backlog, officials announced Monday.

Charges have been filed against 29 people, six of whom have been convicted, since the city launched an effort in 2013 to test 6,663 rape kits — some of which dated back nearly three decades. Testing was completed in the fall, and the results have now been uploaded to a database used by investigators nationwide to compare DNA profiles of possible suspects, Mayor Annise Parker said.

“This milestone is of special importance to rape survivors and their families and friends because it means their cases are receiving the attention they should have years ago,” Parker said at a news conference, where she joined local law enforcement officials to announce the results.

Police are continuing to review the matches to see if charges can be filed in other cases. In the cases where prosecutors have won convictions, defendants have received sentences ranging from 2 to 45 years in prison. One case was dismissed after the victim decided not to pursue the case.

Even with the extraordinary lag time in cases, hard work done by the city of Houston in this matter helps to grow the national database of harmful criminal activity, and has already helped to take some dangerous people off of our nation’s streets.  As Mayor Parker has proven, this is important work that needs to be done.

So the question for other cities remains… why hasn’t this been done yet??

While we can champion the hard work done in Houston, the rape kit backlog is still a major problem across the country.  As MSNBC host Ronan Farrow discovered in one of his last shows on the network, cities across the US are having a major problem getting these rape kits tested.  Without the DNA evidence, that means that thousands of criminals are walking the streets.

rapekit backlogs across US

(Photo credit:  Ronan Farrow Daily)

Washington and Austin both spend a lot of time arguing over border security. Everyone seems to be incredibly concerned about people coming to this country illegally.  But where is the concern for criminals that are already here??  Are the testing of these rape kits not just as important as what is going on at the Border?  It’s a question that needs to be asked, and at least for Houston, we now have an answer.

Off the Kuff has more.

Wendy Davis, Annise Parker hold Press Conference

State Senator and Gubernatorial Candidate Wendy Davis appeared at Houston City Hall with Mayor Annise Parker, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, and City Council members Wanda Adams, Ed Gonzalez, Ellen Cohen and Mike Laster. The Press Conference was not broadcast live, but all local media outlets appeared to be present.

The Press Conference with Senator Davis and City leaders was to announce some major news… the City of Houston no longer has a rape kit backlog, according to the Houston Chronicle. Further Twitter reports from reliable sources are as follows

From the AP’s Juan Lozano, here’s the full article…

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s success in clearing its backlog of untested rape kits should be held up as a model for other cities around Texas to follow, officials said Wednesday.

Houston has spent $4.4 million in federal and city funding to address its backlog of more than 6,600 rape kits, Mayor Annise Parker said.

The funding was used by the city to send its rape kits to two outside labs for testing. Parker said she expects the testing to be completed by the end of this year or early next year.

Parker said Houston’s approach wasn’t easy or inexpensive and it came during a difficult economic time but it was the right way to deal with a problem that had been decades in the making.

“My hope is other cities around the state can learn from our approach,” she said at a news conference.

Testing and reports have been completed on nearly 2,800 cases, with 464 cases yielding usable DNA that is being entered into federal databases. Parker said one charge and one arrest have so far resulted from the testing.

Parker said while Houston was able to pay for its testing of the backlog with the help of federal funding, she is hopeful other cities around Texas will be able to take advantage of $11 million in state funding that was appropriated during this year’s legislative session to pay for the testing of a backlog of about 20,000 rape kits around the state. Officials estimate the backlog around the county is about 400,000.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democratic candidate for governor who helped secure the $11 million to address the backlog around the state, attributed Houston’s success in part to bipartisan cooperation at city, state and federal levels of government to secure funding to deal with the problem.

“The city of Houston is making remarkable progress in bringing victims of sexual assault closure, bringing perpetrators to justice, making our streets safer for families … and I’m pleased it is a stellar example of what a city can do when given the kind of partnership and resources that have been provided here,” Davis said.

Davis made sure to speak about Mayor Parker’s role in the success…

“Mayor Parker has been an incredible leader on this issue.” said Davis.