Utah rape kit backlog grows 2 years after bill to address it

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) DNA Analysts work behind closed doors in an extraction clean room at the office of the medical examiner in Taylorsville where rape kits are being processed on Wed. June 6, 2018. As of November 2019, there is a backlog of untested rape kits in Utah totally nearly 2,000.

The backlog of untested rape kits is growing in Utah even after state lawmakers passed a law in 2017 to address the issue, in part because of a lack of funding to hire an adequate number of technicians.

The state crime lab asked for $2.4 million for 17 technicians but received $1.2 million to hire nine technicians, said Amy Lightfoot, the deputy director of the crime lab, KUTV-TV in Salt Lake City reports.

“Unfortunately, what you’re looking at there is the result of a partially funded mandate,” Lightfoot said.

The backlog sits at about 1,900 rape kits now. The state crime lab is on target to process an estimated 3,300 kits by July 2020, which would eliminate the backlog. The lab receives about 120 kits each month.

She said the number of rape kits sent in has increased by 535% over the last six years.

“We take it very personally that every one of those rape kits represents a person and their story and some traumatic event,” Lightfoot said. “I don’t know that there’s anything I can say that makes that situation OK. I don’t think it’s OK.”

When Utah lawmakers passed the law to speed up rape kit testing, legislators talked about it being a high priority and called the situation an emergency.

The law set a goal for how fast each rape kit should be tested, but only eight out of 1,001 tests since then has met the deadline.

Former Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes said some bills get less money until there’s justification more money is needed.

“The fact that it was funded meant that it was a priority, it’s just that it’s competing with so many pressing needs,” Hughes said.