Roanoke Lab Cutting Down Backlog of Rape Kits Left Untested - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Roanoke Lab Cutting Down Backlog of Rape Kits Left Untested

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Nicole Harold works at the Western Laboratory, which is one of the four Virginia state labs that work with local law enforcement to process evidences for crimes like rape.

"Any PERK that is submitted to our laboratory we will work," Harold says.

A PERK is also known as a rape kit, which consists of swabs and smears of evidence taken from the victim. A problem that's happened nationwide is some of these kits were used but never tested because of budget cuts.

Here in the commonwealth, forensic labs are seeing a backlog as well. A representative with Virginia's Department of Forensic Science tells us that the commonwealth had 1,000 untested cases, including rape, in 2010. But so far this year, there's a backlog of only 111 sexual assault cases.

Some of the reasons for improvements are more employees and tools.

"In the past four years we switched to new instrumentation to work cases more quickly," Harold says.

Staff at the Western Laboratory have completed analyzing 96 sexual assault cases so far this year; their backlog is 23 cases, which are expected to be assigned quickly.

The average time for a case in backlog is about two to three months; however, certain cases will get tested sooner.

"In terms of sexual assault cases, we prioritize cases involving children," Harold says. "Typically we also prioritize cases involving strangers and higher levels of violence."