This DNA Testing Machine Offers Hope For National Rape Kit Backlog

Feb 26, 2015 at 4:25 PM ET

This week, Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced the results of her plan to process the city’s 6,663 untested rape kits. It’s been a success, with reports that the city found 850 matches in the FBI DNA Database, and have so far secured 29 charges and six convictions. And she’s not the only one taking action.

California’s Alameda County Sheriff’s Department just acquired RapidHIT, a DNA testing machine by IntegenX that is said to offer results within two hours—a vast improvement on the weeks or months it normally takes to receive results for samples sent to state labs for DNA testing.

Though the machine won’t be able to test rape kits directly—they require more thorough lab-based tests—Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley says by using RapidHIT to run DNA profiles on other samples, it will free up technicians’ time so they can work through the rape kit backlog. In addition, the machine will help prevent individuals being wrongfully imprisoned for a host of other crimes.

“We can’t spend the next 20 years testing kits of sexual assault crimes that happened 10 years ago,” she said. “We need to do it now and we need to do it efficiently; we need to utilize all the technology that’s available to us so that we can bring justice to victims who have been sexually assaulted and to those whose cases have never been solved. We can get people out of jail or prison who have been wrongly convicted and we can continue to keep our community safe.”

The U.S. has upward of 500,000 rape kits waiting to be processed, some dating as far back as the 1970s.

H/T CBS San Francisco.