San Diego Shows the Value of Testing Rape Kits

Two years ago, the San Diego City Council approved $500,000 to help clear the police department’s rape kit backlog. Now we have results, thanks to a public records request filed by Voice of San Diego. It’s good news for victims and rape kit testing advocates.

Through a public records request, VOSD contributor Kelly Davis and Andrew Keatts found that between late 2017 and November 2018, the department screened 313 backlogged kits — 121 of which yielded a viable DNA profile that was uploaded to a federal database. Thirty-eight of those profiles matched to one already in the database, generating a possible lead.

As VOSD notes, the results raise questions about the SDPD’s position on the matter. It has long advocated for a more methodical approach — investigating first and then determining which kits should be tested — rather than putting all of them through the lab. When District Attorney Summer Stephan offered the SDPD help as part of a $1 million plan to clear the county’s rape kit backlog, she says they declined.

The latest results, VOSD says, are evidence that the ‘investigate first’ approach is misguided. Random testing of all kits can and has provided valuable leads.

Backlogs of untested rape kits exist in jurisdictions throughout the United States. You can learn more about the situation and what steps are being taken to address it at the National Institute of Justice.