City Changes Policy in Wake of CBS Report

Testing of rape kit data sometimes takes months, even years. CBS

In response to a CBS News investigation that found 20,000 untested kits nationwide, the San Antonio Police Department made a major announcement: it will now test all rape kits in stranger cases and will also go back and test all untested stranger rape kits in storage.

"We don't want to let any case where someone is sexually assaulted fall through the cracks," said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.

San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the United States. Chief McManus said that the DNA profiles obtained from untested rape kits will be entered into the national FBI DNA database.

In early fall, the San Antonio Police Department told CBS News it had 11,522 rape kits in storage, and that 5,191 of those kits had never been tested. The department also told CBS News it takes about 15 to 20 days for a rape kit to be tested, at a cost of $40 to the department. The department said the Attorney General reimburses the police department for $275 of the total $315 it costs to test each kit.

Chief McManus told reporters yesterday the majority of untested kits are from acquaintance rapes where identity of the suspect is not in question.

In New York City, the NYPD requires that all rape kits be tested even in cases of acquaintance rapes, "We feel that you always have to test because you never know what you find," said Mecki Prinz director of forensic biology for NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner in an interview with CBS News.

New York has an arrest rate for rape of 70% which is nearly three times the national average.

Prinz told CBS News that suspects involved in acquaintance rapes may have profiles in the DNA database that can be matched if those kits are tested, "We have lots of situations where a domestic situation or an acquaintance situation is actually an indication of the male involved responsible for other rapes," she said.

"We have thrown everything we can at this," said Captain Kevin McClure, commanding officer of robbery homicide division who handles all sexual assaults for the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD has cut its backlog of 6,000 kits by 60% and now tests every kit that comes in the door even in acquaintance cases because McClure says the suspect could be a serial rapist, "By the time you get that DNA profile you may find that he has hits all over the United States and that person could just keep going."

Research shows that 71% of all rapists are serial offenders, according to Dr. David Lisak, an expert on rapists from the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

San Antonio's response to CBS News's initial inquiry was atypical compared to other major police departments.

Twelve major police departments contacted by CBS News did not know how many untested kits they had in storage. A Department of Justice report released last week reflected the lack of information nationwide showing that only 40% of police departments have a "computerized information system in place capable of tracking forensic evidence inventory."

San Antonio's move mirrors the steps taken by the Oakland Police Department earlier this year. Detectives in Oakland began digging through old rape kits in the property room, and found 489 untested kits from stranger cases they now believe to be "solvable" that were never tested. Over 300 of the old kits are more than three years old, and it will take another two years for the city's lab to test them all.
  • Laura Strickler

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