Idaho police tested more than 300 rape kits last year

DOJ awards $2.5M to reduce Washington’s backlog of untested rape kits

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Fewer sexual assault evidence kits were submitted to the state for testing last year, according to an annual report from the Idaho State Police.

In 2020, 477 kits were collected at medical facilities across the state, and of those 334 were submitted to the Idaho State Police forensic services lab, according to the report.

That is a decrease from 2019, when the lab saw 612 submissions, the Idaho Statesman reported. However, many of the 2019 sexual assault kits were old, previously untested ones that were being submitted in compliance with a series of new state laws intended to reduce the state’s kit backlog.

Of the sexual assault kits submitted to the state lab last year, staffers were able to complete testing on 329, including some that were submitted in previous years.

Sexual assault kits — also called rape kits — are used to collect evidence from a victim’s body after an assault. The evidence can then be tested to see if contains DNA that matches any known offenders, or if it matches that of a suspect in the case.

Kits may not be sent to the state lab for testing if the victim reports the crime anonymously, or asks that their kit not be tested. The kits also may not be sent for testing if law enforcement officers say they found no evidence a crime was committed. According to the Idaho State Police report, 57 kits fell into that category.

In 2020, it took the lab an average of about six months to complete testing on a kit, and not all of the kits contained enough evidence to create a DNA profile. Of those tested, the Idaho State Police created 114 new DNA database entries, and six kits matched DNA profiles already in the database.

The state has long struggled with a backlog of untested sexual assault kits. There were still 541 kits at the state lab awaiting analysis as of Dec. 31, plus another 114 kits awaiting a decision from prosecutors or law enforcement about whether they should be submitted to the lab.

Idaho State Police Forensic Services Director Matthew Gamette said most of the kits still at the lab are from older cases, submitted after the 2016 law went into effect. The lab prioritizes cases where law enforcement believes the community and/or victim are in active danger and processes those first.

Gamette said he hopes that in 2021 the lab will be able to finish processing the backlog of kits. The coronavirus pandemic hampered the lab’s ability to train people as much as he would have liked.

“We want to be and do much better than what (the turnaround times) represent,” he said.