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Austin City Council approves DNA testing contracts

Council members approved contracts with four different companies that handle forensic and DNA testing.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin is putting up more money to get justice for crime victims.

The city and the Austin Police Department have been trying to recover from major problems at the DNA lab and a huge rape kit backlog.

On Thursday, city council approved a few items to make sure sexual assault kits and DNA evidence are being tested quickly.

Council approved contracts with four different companies that handle forensics and DNA testing: Houston Forensic Science Center, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Bode Cellmark Forensics, Inc. and Signature Science LLC.

RELATED: Austin police’s troubled DNA lab: Cases could return to court

APD had outsourced DNA testing to help with the kit backlog, which had cases dating back to the '90s.

In February, the department said it had caught up and tested the backlogged kits.

Since then, it has reopened some of those cases.

RELATED: Austin police to reopen rape cases after DNA results found in backlog of 900+ untested kits

The department's forensic lab director, Dr. Dana Kadavy, said Thursday's council action covers the department in the future.

"That whole process was geared to setting us up for success going forward," she said. "What that means is we won't ever accumulate a backlog of sexual assault kits moving forward."

Dr. Kadavy said grant money from the Department of Justice will be used to handle additional review of the backlogged cases.

RELATED: How the rape kit backlog being cleared will impact survivors

She added that she hopes this vote gives sexual assault survivors some reassurance.

"We have the resources in place now," she said. "That if they're brave enough to come forward with a sexual assault kit or other assault evidence, that it's going to be analyzed and done so in a reasonable time frame."


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