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Tests On Backlogged Sexual Assault Kits Nearly Complete

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Curtis Perry
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

State officials say they have almost completed tests on thousands of sexual assault kits dating back five years in an effort to eliminate the backlog and help solve crimes.

Florida lawmakers approved a measure in 2016 to address the backlog and allocated $2.3 million to test unprocessed kits. In the last couple of years, 7,137 kits across the state were tested dating back to 2014. Officials plan to process 8,600 kits by June.

“This is very encouraging news as the state continues to make tremendous progress toward this important goal,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement on Monday.

Florida law requires officials submit kits to a crime lab within 30 of receiving a report. The lab must process the kit within 120 days of receiving it.

More than 1,400 processed sexual assault kits match forensic data linking DNA to crimes, according to data provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. For survivors, eliminating the state’s backlog means the possibility of having their case heard in court.

“Victims are owed the kind of validation of having that evidence be collected and having it reviewed so they have what they need if the case goes forward,” said leader Kathleen Kempke on Tuesday.

The Tampa Bay area center works with survivors with medical attention, collecting evidence, reporting incidents to police, counseling and advocacy.

Kempke lauded the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for its efforts to quickly process kits in Hillsborough County.

“(Hillsborough County is) in good shape,” Kempke said. “I just think across the board, for the state, we need to do this for victims so they have the evidence collected and reviewed when they need it.”

Follow Ashley Lisenby on Twitter @aadlisenby

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Ashley Lisenby is a general assignment reporter at WUSF Public Media. She covered racial and economic disparity at St. Louis Public Radio before moving to Tampa in 2019.