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2 Bay Area Counties Among Recipients Of Grant To Test Rape Kit Backlog

(CBS SF) -- A grant from her counterpart in New York City will allow Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley to completely eliminate the county's rape kit backlog, O'Malley said in a statement Thursday.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced he is sending $38 million in grants to 32 jurisdictions nationwide to test a massive backlog of sexual assault forensic evidence kits. Once tested, results of the kits will be entered in a national database to identify suspects using DNA evidence.

Two Bay Area counties -- Alameda and Contra Costa -- are among the jurisdictions receiving funding from New York.

O'Malley said she has been working on eliminating a backlog of nearly 2,000 untested rape kits since 2009. But despite very public efforts to get the kits tested, including partnering with the FBI last year, 1,075 kits remain untested in the county.

"Today's award enables us to completely eliminate the entirety of the backlog in Alameda County," O'Malley said.

Contra Costa's backlog, and award, was even bigger: over $1.8 million to eliminate 2,400 untested kits, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

The award from the Manhattan prosecutors is just one new source of funding for testing the possibly hundreds of thousands of rape kits sitting on police evidence shelf nationwide: Federal officials announced Thursday $41 million in funding for 20 jurisdictions.

But still, the new funding, believed to be the largest contribution ever made toward ending the backlog, is only estimated to account for around 56,000 untested kits.

Undergoing a rape examination is an extremely invasive procedure for survivors of sexual assault, but one that can yield results in gathering evidence for prosecution, Vance said in announcing the grant.

"So, imagine the shock those victims must feel when they later learn that instead of testing the rape kit, and recovering the DNA of their attacker that could be compared to a nationwide database of convicted offenders, their kit, instead, remains on a shelf, untested for months, years, even decades," Vance said. "What stands in the way of testing them is money, and the will to get the job done."

© Copyright 2015 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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