Florida Data Shows 10,900 Sexual Assault Kits Still Untested

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ST. PETERSBURG (CBSMiami/AP) — Based on statistics released by the state on Tuesday, almost 11,000 rape kits have gone untested in Florida.

In a spreadsheet released on its website, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement showed that 10,900 kits from 262 agencies around the state have not been tested. Seven law enforcement agencies did not report data.

The agency said the data is preliminary and the agencies might update the information.

The department is conducting a more than $300,000 study on the number of untested kits and will present the findings to the Legislature in January.

Part of the quandary is the cost of processing. Attorney General Pam Bondi has called for more funding in the next state budget to process the kits, which cost about $800 to $1,000 per kit for testing.

The ongoing kit survey was the subject of a legislative hearing on Tuesday, where legislators heard from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about the results so far.

After hearing from both agency officials as well as some local law enforcement officials, several senators said many of the reasons they heard about the lack of testing were “reasonable.”

Some of the reasons cited were that sometimes the suspect in the crime was already in custody, or that local prosecutors had decided against pressing charges. One FDLE official did say that attitudes about sexual assault have changed over the last three decades.

“I don’t think there’s evidence that’s there been a callous attitude with law enforcement processing these in a timely manner,” said Sen. Joe Negron, a Senate Republican who oversees spending for the state’s law enforcement agency.

However, the FDLE’s spreadsheet showed that 7,168 kits “should have been submitted.” The spreadsheet didn’t define why a kit should — or should not — be submitted. But some jurisdictions won’t process the kits in certain circumstances, such as when a suspect confesses.

Bondi said in September that another problem comes from a lack of funding at the state law enforcement agency, where crime lab analysts are paid less than their counterparts in other states. The agency has asked for $35 million to hire more DNA analysts and pay them a competitive salary. Bondi said it’s unclear how much money the department will really need to hire more analysts — it could take more than $35 million — to plow through the backlog.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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