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Joyful Heart Foundation Applauds Movement of Albuquerque Bills to Implement Rape Kit Reform

Urges State Legislature to Ensure Consistency through Comprehensive Reform

The Joyful Heart Foundation, a leader in the effort to eliminate the national rape kit backlog, today applauded Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis’s introduction of Council Bill No. R-16-143, the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Testing Resolution, which would establish timelines and practices for the city’s submission and testing of sexual assault evidence kits. This follows City Councilor Dan Lewis’ resolution (R-16-140), approved in January, which increases funding and resources for the city’s crime lab.

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. Testing rape kits is also the pathway to a more effective criminal justice system. By testing kits, communities can identify serial perpetrators, take dangerous offenders off the streets, exonerate the innocent, and prevent future crimes. Yet too often, the decision is made not to test these kits. Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in police and crime lab storage facilities across the country.

In 2016, the New Mexico State Auditor’s investigation into the backlog found 5,440 untested rape kits across the state. In Albuquerque alone, 3,948 untested kits were discovered.

Council Bill No. R-16-143 is an important step in addressing the backlog of untested rape kits in Albuquerque. The municipal resolution requires that the police department submit rape kits for testing within 10 business days, and that the crime lab analyze kits within 3 months of submission. In addition, it requires that the Police Chief publish an annual report online at the end of each fiscal year detailing the number of kits collected in connection with a criminal case, average number of days from submission to testing, and the number of untested kits pending either submission or testing.

Below is a statement from Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy & Advocacy for the Joyful Heart Foundation: 

“When the extent of a jurisdiction’s backlog is revealed, real reform can begin. The Joyful Heart Foundation stands in strong support of Albuquerque City Council Bill No. R-16-143, to provide survivors of sexual assault with the justice they deserve. There is no excuse for complacency on the processing of rape kit evidence – and we join experts calling for the mandatory submission and testing of every rape kit booked into evidence and connected to a reported sexual assault.

These City Council bills lay the groundwork for statewide reform in New Mexico. Every untested kit represents a missed opportunity to bring justice and healing to a survivor and increased safety to a community. We stand with every survivor who has taken the step of reporting the crime to the police and endured an invasive examination in search of DNA evidence left behind by the attacker.

We recognize the importance of addressing the high number of untested kits in Albuquerque, and these bills are a big step. Now, we urge New Mexico legislators to follow with statewide reform – ensuring a consistent and comprehensive handling of rape kits is essential to the successful elimination of a backlog and to ensure it never happens again.  A growing number of states have passed laws requiring sexual assault kit audits or mandatory testing of rape kits. These laws will take dangerous offenders off the streets, make our communities safer, and bring a path to healing and justice to survivors.

They will result in long overdue justice. Joyful Heart will continue to advocate for federal funds – like those received from the New Mexico Department of Public Safety – to help implement comprehensive reform, and stands ready to provide assistance to any community working to address its untested rape kit backlog.”

For background and further information on the rape kit backlog, go to: ENDTHEBACKLOG.org.