By Laura Stricker, with additional reporting by Joshua Scheinblum, Chris Ross, Frankie Dillard, Bonnie Shelton and Jonathan Blakely.
A five month CBS News Investigation has found a staggering number of rape kits -- a collection of swabs and clothing that provide DNA evidence -- have never been sent to crime labs for testing.
Below are the findings from over 16 states and cities nationwide.
According to the Birmingham Police Department there are at least 2,100 rape kits in storage but the department does not know if they are tested or untested.
Officials at the Anchorage Police Department told CBS News they don't know how many kits, tested or untested they have in storage.
According to the Phoenix Police Department there are 4,100 rape kits in the property and evidence storage facilities. The department tells CBS News it does not know how many of these kits are tested or untested. These are rape kits where law enforcement has not requested testing.
Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's Scientific Services Bureau have had a historic problem processing rape kits. At last check the LAPD had tested thousands of kits but were still working their way through a remaining 2,937.
However, LAPD's new Chief Charles Beck says the department now tests all kits. Beck says efforts to reduce the backlog have "resulted in 405 hits (suspect identifications)" in the FBI DNA database.
The L.A. County Sheriff's Department sent a statement to CBS News saying the number of untested kits in their possession is now at 3,777, down from 4,673 due to ongoing testing.
The Sheriff's Department is testing the backlogged kits with the aid of federal funding. The department says they anticipate the full backlog will be cleared by 2011.
San Diego: Earlier this summer the San Diego Police Department told CBS News it was in the process of counting its untested kits in its storage facility. One San Diego law enforcement source who did not want to be identified explained the reason for the counting, "'we don't want to be on the front page of the L.A. Times." This is in reference to the negative attention Los Angeles received from its rape kit backlog.
However, by this fall, a spokesperson for the San Diego PD told CBS News it had stopped counting in order to meet other priorities, according to Lt. Richard O'Hanlon of the San Diego PD.
Michael Grubb from the San Diego Police Department Crime Lab says the department does not test every kit. For example, he writes in an email, kits will not be tested if the "detective has information from the prosecutor's office that the prosecutor will not take the case to court. In these cases, we are not asked to examine the kit."
Oakland: This year the Oakland Police Department did a "hard census" of their untested kits in storage and found 489 untested kits from "solvable" stranger rapes that they realized they should have tested but never did.
These kits date back to 2003. Ten in 2003, 108 in 2004, 102 in 2005, 90 in 2006, 69 in 2007, 69 in 2008, and 42 in 2009, according to the Oakland Police Department Crime Lab.
Why were the kits never tested? "It was not a priority for the Oakland Police Department," says Lt. Kevin Wiley of the Oakland PD's Special Victims Unit. Wiley says back in 2002 and 2003, the department had only 4 to 6 sex crimes investigators who were overwhelmed by individual caseloads of 659 cases per investigator. Recommended caseload for a sex crimes investigator is 10 to 15. Wiley said due to the backlog in sex crimes investigations it was not unusual for a victim to report a rape and not hear from an investigator for a full year.
Today, Wiley says his investigators are down to about 55 to 70 cases per investigator. Wiley adds that now all kits are tested, even cases where the question seems to be that of consent, not of identity, but he says it will take the department about two years to plow through the 489 untested kits they recently uncovered. Lab director Mary Gibbons says she will have to shift resources around to accommodate these older kits as well as the everyday caseload but she says that testing the older kits has value, "These kits have a story to tell and there could be connections that you would never know of but for this evidence," Gibbons said.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's office says they don't know how many tested or untested kits they have in storage.
The Chicago Police Department tells CBS News that it sends all of its rape kits to the Illinois State Police lab for testing and requests that they be processed. Chicago stores untested kits that are "unfounded," meaning the victim might have recanted or never responded to department investigators. But the department does not know how many of those kits are in the department's possession. If the Chicago PD does not want a kit to be tested then the Illinois State Police lab returns that evidence to the Chicago PD.
The Baltimore Police Department says they have no way to estimate how many untested kits are in storage. Lab director Francis Chiafari says the reasons for not testing kits include: "Non-probative evidence/cases, uncooperative victim, false statements resulting in unfounding, detective not requesting processing for investigative reasons, reclassification of the type of crime…"
According to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, there are currently 1,356 rape kits in storage but the department does not know which kits are tested and which are untested.
Sergeant Paul Thompson of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department told CBS in an email, "The kits would not be tested if the victim did not report the incident or chose not to pursue prosecution or cooperate in the investigation." Kits are destroyed if the responsible officer says they can be destroyed.
In Detroit, the Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy recently said she is worried about 10,000 untested rape kits in the Detroit evidence storage facility.
John Roach, a spokesman for the Detroit Police Department, says there are really about 7,000 kits in storage with an estimated 5,800 kits that are untested. He attributes this to cases where there is a known alleged assailant, no charges being pressed, a guilty plea or insufficient evidence to proceed.
In Minneapolis, with the help of a new federal grant, the department and the Hennepin County Attorney's office recently started looking through untested kits in storage and found there were kits from stranger rapes where the victim did not cooperate that were never tested. At the urging of Steve Redding, Hennepin County Attorney, and Lt. Nancy Dunlap, the head of the Sex Crimes Unit at the Minneapolis Police Department, the kits were put in for testing. Almost immediately it yielded results and Minneapolis law enforcement was able to put eight men behind bars. In an effort to find more cases of this kind, the prosecutor and the sex crimes unit are combing through 8,500 rape cases reported since 1991 looking for stranger rapes where the evidence was never tested.
At the Albuquerque Police Department lab there are 1,116 rape kits from active cases that have not been tested that are up to nine years old. These kits have not been tested for the following reasons, according to department spokesman Paul Feist: the suspect pled guilty and the kit wasn't needed; charges were dropped; or the victim changed her mind and did not want to prosecute. The statute of limitations for rape in New Mexico is nine years. After nine years the department can destroy the rape kits.
New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner tests every single rape kit that accompanies a report to the police at the request of the New York District Attorney's offices and the New York Police Department.
The Cincinnati Police Department has 1,248 rape kits in storage but does not know if they are tested or untested.
The Columbus Police Department does not know how many untested kits it has in storage.
Cleveland Police Department also does not know how many untested kits it has in storage and sends all of its DNA requests to the state lab.
Joseph Szarka, Lab Manager at Philadelphia Police Department's Forensic Science Center, tells CBS News that his department, like New York City, tests every rape kit. "How could we not?" he asked in a phone interview. Szarka described to CBS a series of cases where even testing acquaintance cases illuminated key evidence.
The state lab at the Rhode Island Department of Health told CBS News in a statement it has 1,050 untested sexual assault cases in storage that will be tested if the police departments that submitted these kits ask for testing to be done.
At the Houston Police Department there are 3,846 kits in storage that have not been tested, according to a department spokesperson. A Houston Police Department spokesman told CBS the kits have not been tested because the kits are taken from victims where the identity of the suspect is not in question, where the department is not pursuing prosecution or the kits are provided by victims who later recanted.
The San Antonio Police Department tells CBS News in a statement that they have 5,191 untested rape kits in storage.