It’s taken years, but the State of Hawaii finally knows exactly how many untested rape kits exist in neighbor island police evidence lockers, the Hawaii Attorney General’s office announced on Sept. 29 (Honolulu PD data isn’t available yet). Rape kits are great ways to collect DNA evidence in rape cases, but without testing, they’re useless. According to the Sept. 29 news release, of the Maui Police Department’s 166 rape kits used since 1999, 16 have been tested, leaving 152 untested rape kits.
That’s not a lot. In fact, it’s only about 10 percent.
“As part of the state’s effort to determine how sexual assault kits are used, tracked, and tested by the police, the reports shed light on the level of testing conducted,” states the AG’s news release. “A working group convened by the Department of the Attorney General in accordance with Act 207 [signed into law earlier this year, it requires all police departments in Hawaii to inventory their rape kits] is using this information to better understand the issues that resulted in some kits being untested, and to ensure that all kits that should be tested are tested. The Honolulu Police Department, which has the largest inventory to conduct of all four counties, is expected to complete its inventory soon.”
Granted, there are reasons why a police department may not want to test a rape kit. Writer Caitlin Dickson highlighted a few of them in her 2014 Daily Beast story “How the U.S. ended up with 400,000 untested rape kits.”
“More recently, however, because testing one rape kit costs between $500 and $1,500, police departments don’t test every rape kit that comes their way,” Dickson wrote. She also quoted Scott Berkowitz, founder and president of the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) on another reason why many departments let rape kits gather dust in evidence lockers. “Some only pursue the ones they have the best chance of solving,” Berkowitz said in the Daily Beast story. “Others only test if the alleged rapist is a stranger.”
In any case, Attorney General Doug Chin also said in the Sept. 29 news release that Hawaii would get a grant to help island police departments deal with the rape kits.
“This $2 million grant from the United States Department of Justice will provide real support to the efforts already underway by police, prosecutors, and victim-assistance groups,” Chin said in the news release. “It will provide the State with resources to assist the police departments with testing sexual assault kits, assist with victim notification and services, and continue the multidisciplinary community response team that is currently engaged in the comprehensive reform of managing, tracking, and testing sexual assault evidence collection kits.”