Update On Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Shows Progress

(Memphis) More than 12,000 rape victims will have their sexual assault kids tested, even without support from the state legislature.

That’s a promise from city leaders after an update Tuesday on the backlog problem plaguing Memphis.

However, the update on rape kits was more than just promises; facts also came out about recent tests.

Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong shared with the council,

“Ninety-one investigations have been initiated. Fifty-four of those investigations still remain active. Thirty-seven investigations have been closed.”

Those numbers are the result of every rape kit during Armstrong’s three years in office being tested. That work has led to 14 indictments and the discovery of 16 people who had previously been convicted of other crimes.

However, with more than 12,000 rape kits still to be tested, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

“The great majority of these tests will come back and require some pretty intensive and massive investigations,” Armstrong said.

Even though the state put off funding untested rape kits across Tennessee, Mayor AC Wharton says he will not let that stop the pursuit of justice for victims.

“We’re going to keep pressing on with the resources we have. We are not going to give up.”

More than 5,500 kits are still untested for serology and DNA.

Some council members questioned whether kits where the statute of limitation has expired still need to be tested. Armstrong insisted they do.

“We feel like it’s necessary to test all of the kits that we have in our possession in case that suspect is responsible for another rape,” he pointed out to the council.

Director Armstrong admits the department’s hands are tied without the $6.5 million needed to eliminate the backlog.

Even without state money, Memphis leaders said they will continue to fight.

Armstrong said, “When it’s necessary for me to come before this body, before council, and ask for additional funding, I’m fully prepared to do that.”

Wharton added, “The victims deserve better than that, and we’re going to give them better than that.”

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