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$2.8M federal grant to help Texas DPS reduce rape kit backlog

On Dec. 1 of this year, DPS staff reported 3,577 untested sexual assault kits submitted since Sept. 2019.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has been awarded a grant of $2.8 million to help reduce the state’s DNA rape kit backlog, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said on Monday.

The funding comes through the Department of Justice as part of the Capacity Enhancement for Backlog Reduction (CEBR) Program and is authorized by the Debbie Smith Act.

The Debbie Smith Act was signed into law in 2004 to provide local and state crime laboratories resources to end the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved crimes, analyze DNA samples and increase the capacity to process DNA to guard against future backlogs.

“As long as rape kits sit untested, authorities are failing the victims and communities we’ve sworn to protect,” said Sen. Cornyn. “I am proud to have authored three laws to help drive down our national backlog, and I’ll continue to do everything I can to ensure survivors receive the closure they deserve and that justice is served.”

In 2011, Texas passed S.B. 1636, requiring newly collected rape kits be sent to a lab for testing within 30 days. Just two years later, The Texas Tribune reported Texas had an estimated 20,000 untested rape kits statewide.

Over the past 10 years, several state laws have been passed, including S.B. 1192, H.B. 1729, H.B. 3152, H.B. 281, and millions of dollars spent to eliminate the backlog.

On Dec. 1 of this year, DPS staff reported 3,577 untested sexual assault kits since Sept. 2019. Of those, 572 are in the hands of Texas law enforcement agencies and 3,005 are in DPS and local partner crime labs. Of the ones in DPS and local partner crime labs, 1,079 were submitted more than 90 days ago.

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