By William Darnell
City officials announced Monday that Houston's massive, decade-spanning rape kit backlog has been eliminated.
Mayor Annise Parker, joined at City Hall by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson and law enforcement officials, said the more than 6,000 previously untested rape kits were now tested and uploaded to a national database. Parker called it "significant" that Houston was one of the first cities to bring its backlog up to date.
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"This was not a Houston problem, this was not a Texas problem, this was a nationwide issue that built up over years and years," Parker said. "This milestone is of special importance to rape survivors and their families and friends because it means their cases are receiving the attention they should have years ago."
Of the 6,600 sexual assault kits tested, city officials said 850 produced hits in the FBI's national criminal database, meaning that they matched previous information in the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). According to the Chron, the effort, which has led to 29 new sets of charges, was paid for after the City Council approved a $4.4 million plan in 2013 to test DNA in nearly 10,000 cases, of which the 6,600 rape kits were included.
"Now that the testing of these kits is complete, we know that it's up to us to finish the job and to seek justice for these victims," DA Anderson said. "We will do our best to put the people who are responsible for these heinous crimes behind bars for as long as possible." Anderson conceded that some of those heinous crimes could have been committed while possibly implicating DNA evidence sat dormant on shelves for years.
The AP reports that possible reasons for huge rape-kit backlogs faced by Houston and other major cities, like Memphis and Detroit, could be due to the high price required to perform each test -- anywhere between $500 and $1,000.