Josh Stein: North Carolina rape kit backlog is cleared

After more than six years of prioritizing review, North Carolina has eliminated its backlog of unprocessed rape kits, Attorney General Josh Stein announced.

“I am so grateful that we are working together on a bipartisan basis to pursue justice by reviewing and testing these older kits. Each kit belongs to a person who experienced a brutal trauma. They deserve our best efforts to seek justice and get their rapists off the streets,” Stein said.

He announced the milestone at the Wake Tech Public Safety Education Campus before about 100 onlookers.

As of this month, nearly 12,000 kits have been tested or are in the process of being tested, according to News & Observer, which obtained the information from Stein’s press office. Of those kits, more than 5,000 have been entered into the Combined DNA Index System, commonly known as CODIS, a database that stores DNA profiles of those convicted. More than 2,700 samples were matched within the database, with 114 arrests made as a result.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the survivors who have advocated for this work,” Stein said. “To offenders, I have a message for you: No matter how long it takes, we’re going to do everything we can to hold you accountable.”

He also shared a message to sexual assault survivors.

“We care about you, we will never stop pursuing justice for what happened to you, and we will do everything we can to support you,” Stein said.

He added that his office is “committed to continuing working with our community partners to keep pursuing justice, to put rapists behind bars, and to keep you safe.”

The issues dates back to 2017 when the North Carolina General Assembly required a statewide inventory of unprocessed rape kits, to be conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ). By 2019, the DOJ had identified more than 16,000 untested kits throughout the state.

Stein then worked with the General Assembly — a bipartisan effort considering that he is a Democrat and Republicans control the Legislature — to create a committee to establish a procedure for clearing the backlog and ensuring it doesn’t get out of hand again.

Leaders also worked to approve a tracking system that allows victims, law enforcement or prosecutors to monitor the status of rape kits as they work their way through the testing process. That includes the kit location and whether it has been processed.

Stein also advocated for the Survivor Act, which provided an initial $6 million in funding to clear the backlog, followed later by another $9 million. The federal government, through the DOJ, provided another $2 million for the effort.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. In early 2022, she left the business to serve as Communications Director for St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch. After leaving the administration, Janelle briefly worked as a communications consultant for candidates, businesses and non-profits, before accepting her position as Publisher for Southeast Politics, a homecoming of sorts to her Florida Politics roots, where she served as a reporter and editor for several years. Janelle has also held roles covering the intersection of politics and business for the Tampa Bay Business Journal and general assignment news with an emphasis on social justice and climate change for WMNF Community Radio, where she also hosted a political call-in show under several names, including Last Call, Midpoint and The Scoop. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]

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