NEW YORK - The White House and New York City's district attorney have pledged a combined $79 million on Thursday to help clear the tens of thousands of rape kits that have gone untested across the country.
The White House announced that $41 million in federal funds plus $38 million from the Manhattan prosecutor will go toward clearing backlogs in 27 states.
Local law enforcement agencies applied for the grants. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is using asset forfeiture funds toward the effort.
Vance and Vice President Joe Biden announced the local authorities receiving funds at a news conference at the New York City medical examiner's office.
Awards range from $97,305 to the Travis County Sheriff's Office in Texas, which will test approximately 148 kits, to $1,999,982 to the Georgia State Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which will test approximately 3,108 kits.
It's estimated that tens of thousands of DNA samples taken after sexual assaults have gone untested. Part of the issue is the cost of testing the kits, which can run around $800 to $1,000 per kit. Some cities such as Detroit have turned to private donations to raise money to clear the backlogs.
The district attorney's office said it has established agreements with two private forensic labs to secure competitive rates for testing kits. Kits tested through the initiative will cost less than $675 per kit, significantly less than the estimated nationwide average of $1,000 to $1,500 per kit.
In 2009, CBS News reported that investigators often ignore DNA evidence collected from victims in sexual assault kits. Thousands of these rape kits have gathered dust for years but the CBS News report and subsequent coverage have helped persuade some police departments to begin testing them
In one of those cities, Cleveland, once the kits were analyzed, they revealed 225 men were potentially linked to multiple rapes.