Shelby County DA confident the remaining 4K untested rape kits will be sent out by end of 2017

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis still has a backlog of over 4,000 untested rape kits, despite a lot of progress in the seven years since WREG first uncovered the backlog.

The Shelby County District Attorney's Office is working to prosecute the cases it can based on the testing.

Attorney General Amy Weirich expressed disappointment on Friday after being told an accused rapist was found not guilty by a jury. But not just any suspect -- one of many identified thanks to a rape kit.

"You’re witnessing firsthand what we’re up against," said Weirich.

Police said the victim was working as a prostitute when Quantez Person held her against her will and raped her in 2002. She was one of eight women he’s accused of raping. Half of these cases were linked by rape kits.

"A rape that happened last week is a tough case to prosecute," said Weirich. "A rape that happened ten years ago, it has every odd against it making that case happen."

The county says about two thirds of the 12,374 once untested kits have now been sent out to labs and out of those, there have been 15 convictions and 219 cases are currently in the court system.

"Are you happy with that number?" WREG's Bridget Chapman asked Weirich. "Do you think that’s a high enough number right now?"

"Yes, we’re pleased with the progress that’s been made," she answered. "As I have said many, many times, these are tough cases."

She said they're tough because of the statute of limitations, cases where victims don’t want to participate and some where the suspect is dead or still unidentified.

Other cities around the nation have also experienced backlogs, but Cleveland’s been recognized for its success with getting its numbers down.

“It’s available resources. The Cleveland situation is much different from the Memphis situation in the sense that the state attorney general in Ohio gave many extra people to the DA's office in Cleveland.”

Shelby County’s expanded the Special Victims Unit and added an extra prosecutor and investigator to try and tackle the problem.

They're hoping to get rapists off the streets, especially when a lot of these suspects are linked to multiple cases.

“Does it seem as though there have been serial rapists out in our community?” asked WREG's Bridget Chapman.

“Of course there are," said Weirich. "I think that’s true in every community. Very rarely does someone rape once and never again, that’s why this is so crucial and urgent.”

The DA’s office is also indicting DNA samples when suspects aren’t already in the system.

They have a goal of sending all the rape kits out by the end of this year.