Alaska crime lab cutting down backlog of rape kits

  • Saturday, February 4, 2017 9:50pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE (AP) — The state’s crime lab has shown improvements in the time it takes to process sexual assault kits.

At the end of 2016, the lab had a backlog of 117 DNA cases, which included sexual assault kits and other biological evidence. That was down from 387 cases in December 2014, The Alaska Public Radio Network reported Wednesday.

Forensic biology supervisor Michelle Collins said the decrease was the result of the lab streamlining the screening process for sexual assault kits. That involved screeners not only locating DNA on evidence but also determining whether there’s enough present to create a DNA profile.

The lab’s goal is to process 90 percent of evidence received within 30 days. But Collins says that target is difficult to reach when a rape kit contains multiple DNA samples, so her team aims to complete those kits within 60 days.

“Our reality is that our profiles are often mixtures of two, maybe three, maybe more individuals,” Collins said. “And that interpretation is very complex.”

A legislative audit found that the state crime lab in July was only finishing about half of its cases within the 30-day time frame.

But Anchorage police Lt. John McKinnon said the lab has made major improvements from when he used to wait over a year to get results from sexual assault kits.

“Well, believe it or not, in Anchorage, we feel like the kit turnaround is pretty good,” McKinnon said.

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