Rape kit test backlog cleared in Santa Clara County, average processing time down to 16 days

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County officials announced the end to a backlog of rape test kits in the county along with an expedited forensic testing process in sexual assault cases leading to faster arrests.

Santa Clara County is no longer one of the counties across California dealing with a backlog of rape test kits.

According to numbers provided by county officials, Santa Clara County has now expedited the average testing time of Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) kits to 16 days, down from an average of 94 days in February of 2018.

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"When we started these conversations with the board of supervisors two years ago we had a backlog of 260 SART kits which had not yet been tested, today the backlog is zero" said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

In February 2018, County Supervisor Cindy Chavez called for additional resources in an effort to clear the existing backlog of rape kits and to speed up testing in new cases.

"What they found was not only that a high number of (suspects) were serial rapists but they were also people who were committing multiple, other types of crimes" said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

So what changed?

Several hundred thousand dollars was allocated to create a team of criminalists dedicated to testing SART kits.

Eventually, two additional criminalists were added to that team.

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While $300,000 in one-time funding was allotted for a contract to allow an outside lab to assist in testing the original kits to clear the backlog.

The district attorney's office also set a targeted turnaround time of 30 days for DNA evidence in sexual assault cases starting in May 2018.

In cases where the attacker is a stranger, kits are now flagged as a priority and tested in five to seven days. This allows law enforcement to act more quickly in arresting dangerous suspects.

"I think that Santa Clara County is going to set the trend nationally, not locally, not in our state, but nationally," said Chavez.
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