ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A backlog of sexual offense kits at the State Police’s Forensic Investigation Center (FIC) in Albany could take up another to two years to clear.
An oversight report from the New York State Comptroller’s Office says at the end of October 2019 the FIC had yet to process 1,916 kits.
A backlog of sexual offense kits exists because of an Executive Order signed in November 2016 requiring all collected kits to be turned over to the lab regardless of age. As part of that order, there were still 614 kits that needed to be processed at the end of October. Which is well past the processing deadline of 210 days.
The Comptroller’s Office says the FIC needs to better streamline its processes in order to meet the state requirements for the processing of sexual offense kits but State Police Superintendent, Keith Corlett, says they have been doing just that.
He says the FIC has been making adjustments in order to process kits but the large influx of previously submitted kits as part of the Governor’s Executive Order was further complicated because limited information sent in with them.
Superintendent Corlett also says they have seen a 50% increase in sexual offense kits sent since 2017 in a response letter to the Comptroller’s Office. New test kits need to be processed within 90 days and the FIC is struggling with staying current while working to clear the backlog.
Joyful Heart Foundation Director of Policy and Advocacy, Ilse Knecht, says not only do unprocessed sexual offense kits present a public safety hazard but they represent the life of a victim forever changed by sexual assault. She also says she’s not surprised by the Comptroller’s report because she’s seen this happen throughout the country.
Knecht has spent 20 years advocating for victims of sexual assault and is a nationally recognized expert on getting previously untested sexual offense kits tested. She says other states who were mandated to process their backlog of sexual offense kits experienced a lack of information when the kits were finally processed, similar to what Superintendent Corlett says the staff at the FIC encountered.
She says it has to do with how potential sexual assault cases are handled by law enforcement. Knecht says law enforcement agencies are not equipped to deal with trauma victims often mistaking signs of trauma as lying.
Superintendent Corlett says being provided extra office and laboratory space could allow the FIC a greater capacity to clear the backlog of untested kits.
Knecht says the FIC isn’t alone in their need for additional funding. She says the underfunding of crime labs is a problem nationwide. She says she’d like to see the State Police send the backlogged kits to a private lab which would free up FIC staff and allow them to stay up-to-date on the most recent kits.