Funding approved for rape kit testing program in Nevada
The Legislative Interim Finance Committee on Thursday, Aug. 24, approved the addition of $1.35 million to the funding approved in the 2017 session to test the backlog of DNA rape kits in Nevada.
Assembly Bill 97 appropriated $3 million to Nevada’s two forensic laboratories to comply with the law mandating timely testing of rape kits to find perpetrators through their DNA.
The funding approved on Thursday adds $1.35 million to that budget from settlement money received by the Nevada Attorney General’s Office for a total budget of $4.35 million. That money will be used to help the crime labs operated by Metro in southern Nevada and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office hire additional scientists to conduct the testing mandated by AB97. Those labs are the only facilities in Nevada certified by the FBI to conduct the testing.
The bill is designed to not only test new rape kits received from hospitals and law enforcement, but to eliminate the backlog of more than 7,000 kits in evidence lockers around the state, some of them decades old.
The goal of AB 97 is to test rape kits within 120 days.
“Today’s unanimous approval only reaffirms our commitment to this important initiative and to all of our victims of crime throughout Nevada,” said First Assistant Attorney General Wes Duncan.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt said the decision, “is a significant step toward making mandatory testing in Nevada a reality.”
He expressed thanks for the bipartisan support for the program from lawmakers saying it has been a two-year effort to cure the problem.
Laxalt’s office pledged $3.68 million to reducing the backlog in 2015. The money included $1.98 million from the Sexual Assault Kit grant program and $1.7 million in settlement money received by the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
In 2016, he said his office received two additional grants, including $1.9 million from the Bureau of Justice Association and $523,268 in federal funding.
Those funds along with the new funding of $4.35 million will not only hire the professionals to conduct the testing but purchase the expensive equipment needed to do the job.