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Despite progress on testing rape kits, some cities still behind

Five years ago when CBS News exposed that there were 20,000 untested rape kits nationwide, the idea of a police department or a prosecutor ignoring the most important evidence in a rape case was unknown.

Today, while there are still thousands of untested rape kits coming to light in cities across America, a growing number of law enforcement agencies are taking steps to address the problem.

Later this month, prosecutors and police chiefs from Cleveland, Detroit and Memphis, Tennessee, who are grappling with enormous backlogs will meet in Cleveland to discuss best practices. Each city is in the process of testing thousands of rape kits and arresting dozens of serial rapists.

Testing rape kits is now even becoming an issue in political campaigns.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who led the way in testing all of the untested rape kits in Ohio, now touts the results on the campaign trail.

Forgotten evidence from untested rape kits could bring justice to victims

In Nevada, days after CBS News' latest story showed that the Las Vegas Police Department tests just 16 percent of its rape kits, one of the candidates for state attorney general, Adam Laxalt, said he would push to drastically cut or eliminate the backlog of 4,300 kits at the Las Vegas crime lab.

And the state of California passed a law earlier this month requiring rape kits to be tested in a timely fashion by law enforcement agencies, following states like Texas and Illinois that also passed laws requiring evidence to be tracked and tested.

But despite this progress, computer systems leave many departments with no information about what they have in storage.

Forgotten evidence from untested rape kits could bring justice to victims

The Charleston Police Department in West Virginia told CBS News that it doesn't know how many untested kits it has. Sgt. Tony Hazlett said in an email that the only way to find out would be to "empty every evidence bin to find the kits, pull every [case] related to those kits and then sort out those tested from those untested. It could be done but would take several months to do so."

He noted that while the department's old system might have been used to conduct a search, the new system can't perform those searches.

The Miami Police Department told CBS News that while 1,300 rape kits were booked into evidence between 2004 and 2014 it does not know how many kits were tested.

The department estimates that it tests about 15 to 20 kits a year for what is known as "stranger rapes," where the alleged assailant is not known. That would be an estimated 15 percent testing rate. In comparison, New York City tests 100 percent of its kits.

When CBS News asked for information about how many kits in Miami were sent to the lab between 2004 and 2014, the department sent CBS News a query from its evidence database with the label "all kits sent to lab," which added up to 390.

However, when pressed for specifics, department spokesman Maj. Delrish Moss denied that the query represented the actual number of kits sent to the lab. He said that despite occasional notations in the documents that read "lab" the department does not know how many were sent to the crime lab.

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