Authorities test 1400 rape kits; 5000 still untested

Melissa's Law was passed six months ago

A backlog of untested rape kits in the Portland Police Bureau (KOIN, file)
A backlog of untested rape kits in the Portland Police Bureau (KOIN, file)

TUALATIN, Ore. (KOIN) — Justice may be coming for victims of rape.

Testing is now underway for backlogged rape kits, and already they’re making some major progress.

It’s all made possible by Melissa’s Law, a bill that targets a current backlog of untested rape kits statewide by making it mandatory to test all those kits.

So far, about 1,400 kits have been tested. Of those, nearly 24 of them were put into a national database. Roughly 5 of them match with a convicted offender.

“It’s a crime probably. It could be for murder, robbery or something else. For some reason this person’s DNA is in the database, probably not for any good reason,” said victim advocate Brenda Tracy.

There are still nearly 5,000 kits that need to be tested.

Director of Forensic Services Capt. Alex Gardner released the following statement:

“We continue to working diligently to address the DNA and SAFE kit backlog.  Our backlog reflects the disparity between our laboratory work volume and the staff required to process it.  The Oregon legislature understood this when it passed SB-1571 and authorized the hiring of nine additional scientists. That’s a fantastic step in the right direction and we are grateful for the promise of help. However, our backlog is expected to increase in the short term due to an increase in SAFE kit submissions coupled with the resources and time it takes to hire and train qualified forensic scientists.  Hiring and training a DNA analyst requires twelve to fifteen months and also results in more senior scientists being pulled from scientific work to assist with training.  As a result, we do not expect significant progress towards the overall backlog in less than 18 months (from funding on July 1, 2016).”