Bill Would Require All Rape Kits Be Tested

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - A bill to require all rape kits collected by law enforcement to be tested took it's first steps in the legislature Thursday. H.B. 200 would also help staff the state crime lab and create a better data base. It's unclear if the cost will be an issue for it passing.

There was bipartisan support in 2014 from lawmakers to begin tackling the large backlog of untested rape kits from agencies around the Utah. The state crime lab began testing all kits and outsourced some of the work to catch up.

Rep. Angela Romero (D) of Salt Lake City is the main sponsor of H.B. 200. She notes similar legislation has shown success in other states.

"What we've found is that when states do process all kits we have identified serial raspiest," said Rep. Romero.

The bill is expected to get an official cost estimate in the next few days, and could end up being anywhere from one to three million dollars.

Julie Valentine is an assistant professor at BYU and a sexual assault nurse. Her recent study of rape kit testing around the state shined a light on the issues that come from untested kits. She notes what impact it has on victims.

"Most victims just think oh it's automatically going to go to crime lab," said Valentine. "Then we find out that many of them don't go to crime lab."

Valentine points out how low Utah's rate of certain crimes are compared to other states. She notes when it comes to rape and sexual assault we are higher than average.

"I don't think any lawmakers want to be known as that, the state with high rates of rape," said Valentine. "To be able to stop that and turn that around we need to increase our response with the testing of these kits."

Some police departments in the state have already adopted a 100 percent test policy. West Valley City Police have been doing so since 2013.

Chief Lee Russo said while he understands why some departments haven't taken similar steps, he believes it's been the right choice. Even with the extra costs.

"In the name of the service we want to perform to our victims, and bringing offenders to justice I think this is a program we do need to push forward," said Chief Russo.

He believes building a better database in the state would only be a help to law enforcement. The chief compares it to the work of collecting fingerprints over time.




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