Nevada to get $5.6M to clear backlog of untested rape kits

LAS VEGAS — Nevada agencies will get about $5.6 million to start tackling a backlog of more than 7,500 untested rape kits, which contain DNA evidence collected from people who say they were sexually assaulted.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced Thursday in Las Vegas that Nevada will get close to $2 million in grant money from the White House and the New York City prosecutor’s office. His office also plans to apply $1.7 million it received in a settlement toward the cause, and Las Vegas police announced they were getting $2 million of their own to clear the backlog.

“These funds should not only speak to survivors, assuring them that this state is invested in securing their deserved justice, but to law enforcement agents, who can now begin to solve related crimes,” Laxalt said in a statement. “I am pleased to join other elected officials in propelling Nevada to take a victim-centered approach to justice.”

Rape kits contain biological specimens collected from people after they report they were sexually assaulted. But a lack of resources means many are not promptly analyzed in a lab, and cases remain unsolved.

Laxalt said the languishing kits are “preventing law enforcement from apprehending criminals and deterring future serial crimes.”

His announcement comes as Vice President Joe Biden and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. pledged a combined $79 million to test sexual assault kits across the country. Nevada is one of 27 states to receive the funds.

Cyrus is using corporate forfeiture funds toward the grants.

It’s estimated that tens of thousands of DNA samples taken after sexual assaults have gone untested. Some cities such as Detroit have turned to private donations to raise money to clear the backlogs.

Part of the issue is the cost of testing the kits, which can run from $800 to $1,500 each. Vance’s office said it struck an agreement with two private forensic labs so testing paid for by the grant money will cost less than $675 per kit.


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