Pa.’s rape kit backlog sees a sharp reduction | The Numbers Racket

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller)

Pennsylvania Auditor General and Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District seat, announced last week that the state has seen a record low of 94 backlogged rape kits – a 97 percent decrease since 2016, according to state data. 

The state Department of Health released the findings in its 2020 Untested Sexual Assault Kits and Backlogged Evidence Report. Just four years earlier, the report found more than 3,000 backlogged rape kits statewide. 

The Department of Health defines a backlogged kit as one that “has received victim consent to be tested, but has been waiting 12 months or longer for testing.”

“The law clearly states that, once consent for testing is received, law enforcement must submit a kit to an approved forensic lab within 15 days,” DePasquale said, questioning why 94 kits were still being held by 41 law enforcement agencies. 

In his 2016 special report on Pennsylvania’s untested rape kits, the auditor general said that “communication failures, bureaucratic breakdowns and resource shortages” resulted in an inaccurate count of the state’s backlogged tests and led to some kits remaining untested since the 1990s. 

Of Pennsylvania’s roughly 1,100 local law enforcement agencies:

1,060 … reported their kit numbers for 2019.

499 … agencies reported their kit numbers in 2016

112 … the percentage reporting increased from 2016

2016 was the first year the statewide report was released, according to a statement from the Auditor General’s Office. 

Breakdown

The table below shows the state’s rape kit inventory as of Dec. 31, 2019. 

Below is a county-by-county breakdown of where backlogged rape kits were reported as of Dec. 31, 2019. 

Praise worthy

The sharp decline in backlogged kits in Pennsylvania earned the praise of Law & Order: SVU actress Mariska Hargitay. 

Hargitay is co-founder and president of the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization that provides support for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse in addition to advocating for legislative reform to end the backlog of untested rape kits nationwide. 

Cassie Miller
A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.