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Mayor Tim Keller Announces Rape Kit Backlog Reduced by Half

City on track to finish backlog by end of 2020, improving efforts to support survivors.

December 16, 2018

Today, Mayor Tim Keller updated the public on continuing efforts to end the backlog of sexual assault evidence kits (SAEKs), commonly known as rape kits. Mayor Keller, standing alongside Albuquerque Police Department and sexual assault survivor advocates, announced that half of Albuquerque’s rape kit backlog has been submitted for testing in the last year and the City is on track to completely clear the backlog by the end of 2020.

Inventory of SAEKs at APD - Kits collected from 01/01/1981 through 09/30/2018

# APD Kits Tested

2,874

# APD Kits Untested

2,678

Total # of Kits Collected by Agency

5,552

 

In December 2016, when he was State Auditor, Mayor Keller brought attention to the Albuquerque backlog. In 2017, Albuquerque only submitted 170 kits from the backlog for testing. When Mayor Keller came into office, he signed an executive order calling on APD and the Albuquerque Sexual Assault Evidence Response Team (ASERT) to create a comprehensive plan for clearing the backlog, including funding streams. As of this month, APD has sent 2,874 kits for testing.

 

The kits tested since have then resulted in a 20% “hit rate,” meaning the offender’s DNA matched either a known or unknown profile in a national database.

“Working to end the backlog over the past years has made a couple of things crystal clear,” stated Mayor Tim Keller. “We owe it to each and every survivor to test the rape kit backlog. Eliminating the backlog is also a critical step to fighting and solving crimes and making the public safer. The hit rate we’re seeing from clearing Albuquerque’s backlog proves that taking sexual assault seriously is key to getting the worst kinds of offenders behind bars. Make no mistake, ending the backlog everywhere is a matter of public safety.” 

APD also announced changes in the department to staff up the Sex Crimes Unit and better support survivors through the often traumatic process of reporting, investigating and prosecuting sexual assault.

“While we are making progress, there’s still a long road ahead to clear the backlog, work the cases that result from the testing, and take sexual assault seriously as a society,” stated Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair. “We will continue to prioritize the resources we have and to seek grants and help from the legislature in January. Our aim is to better support survivors by working with our partners on resources at each stage.” 

Key changes over the past year include:

  • Sexual Assault Evidence Kit backlog: Albuquerque’s SAEK backlog was reduced from 5,552 untested kits to 2,678 untested kits. APD is on track to test 130 kits per month to completely clear the backlog by the end of 2020.
  • Sex Crimes Unit: APD is prioritizing resources to increase staffing of the Sex Crime Unit. Three detectives were added to the Unit, bringing the number of detectives working on current cases to five. There are also two detectives working on cold cases.  The Sex Crimes Unit was also awarded a grant to hire civilian staff to support backlog reduction, including a project coordinator and two victim liaisons.
  • Disposition of kits: Mayor Tim Keller is directing APD to change the policy related to the destruction of SAEKs for unsolved cases. APD will ensure kits are preserved as long as the statute of limitations applies, even if the department receives a disposition from the District Attorney that determines the evidence may not be needed. The kits will be available if an unsolved case is re-opened for any reason.
  • Working with advocates: APD is a member of the Albuquerque Sexual Assault Evidence Response Team (ASERT). The group is co-led by Deputy Chief Art Gonzales and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Director Teresa D’Anza. Other members include Bernalillo County and the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
  • Supporting survivors: APD recently hired a Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) advocate and a Sex Crimes advocate to work on better supporting victims. The ASERT team developed a victim notification plan, including victim notification teams that use trauma-informed best practices and provide victims with a comprehensive set of resources.
  • Updating the public: Mayor Tim Keller announced new resources to bring transparency to the backlog. The City has a new webpage about the status of the rape kit backlog that will be continuously updated at cabq.gov/endthebacklog. Survivors seeking information about the status of their own kit can call 1-866-613-SAIL or email [email protected].

Rape kit backlogs are common across the nation, and were present in New Mexico at both the state crime lab in Santa Fe and APD. Mayor Keller first shined a light on the statewide rape kit backlog in 2016 as State Auditor when he released the first ever audit of untested rape kits at law enforcement agencies and crime labs in New Mexico.