Virginia Using Grant to Catch up on Backlog of Rape Kits - NBC4 Washington

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Virginia Using Grant to Catch up on Backlog of Rape Kits

Some kits are almost three decades old

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    NEWSLETTERS

    News4 cameras go inside the forensic laboratory that processes rape kits. News4's Meagan Fitzgerald reports. (Published Wednesday, July 6, 2016)

    What to Know

    • A backlog of more than 2,000 Virginia rape kits are being tested in Lorton.

    • Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring applied for a $1.4 million grant in 2014 to allow for the tests.

    • Officials hope the results help them identify additional crimes as well as solve open cases.

    Virginia’s attorney general hopes to clear the commonwealth’s backlog of rape kits within the next few months.

    Over the past two months, forensic scientists in the labs at Bode Cellmark in Lorton have been working tirelessly to test more than 2,000 backlogged sexual assault kits from around Virginia. Some of the kits are almost three decades old.

    “We're seeing this unprecedented surge in testing that we’re experiencing today as we're working with cities and states around the United States,” Bode Cellmark General Manager Mike Cariola said.

    Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring applied for a $1.4 million grant in 2014 to allow for all of the commonwealth’s kits to be stored and tested at Bode Cellmark.

    “This is really important for a lot of reasons,” Herring said. “First of all, it can help us identify additional crimes that known perpetrators may have committed.”

    Each DNA sample is carefully marked with its own individual identification number. After it's tested, it goes back into the envelope and is sealed again.

    The process can take up to two hours, but it's one state officials hope will help them take violent criminals off the street.

    The results go into national databases, and if there are hits, they are shared with the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

    “We know that sexual violence, sexual assault is a serial offense,” Herring said. “Rarely does a perpetrator commit it only one time. So that's why it's important to identify and get these kits done.”