February 15, 2020
ATLANTA — State officials say a backlog of hundreds of untested rape kits is accumulating at the GBI crime lab once again – and proposed budget cuts could make it worse. The situation spotlights a half-billion dollars in budget cuts proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp over the next two years.
The crime lab processes scientific evidence from crimes across Georgia – including rape kits, which collect DNA evidence and links the DNA to criminal suspects.
Years ago, there were thousands of unprocessed rape kits in Georgia. In 2018, the state announced it had cleared the rape kit backlog. But now, it's back.
GBI director Vic Reynolds told lawmakers the state crime lab had 768 untested rape kits as of last week. At its current rate, it could grow to 2,000 by the end of the year.
"I'm going to do everything humanly possible to make sure it doesn't get larger than that," Reynolds told lawmakers Monday
Yet, the state is proposing cutting the crime lab's budget by $1.6 million this year, cutting scientists and lab technician positions this year, and doubling those cuts next year.
"The backlog of overall evidence that needs to be tested is over 44,000," said state Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta). "So this is a massive problem that needs to be addressed."
Four years ago Holcomb backed a new law requiring the timely processing of rape kits – which he says becomes problematic under the new budget cuts.
"We have new cases coming in every day. And then the governor's plan is to bring in more cases," Holcomb said. "He wants to very actively create more prosecutions on gangs, which is going to only create an even greater strain on our existing resources."
Reynolds says he wants to outsource to private firms the DNA testing of evidence involving lesser crimes, excluding rape or murder. That would save money – but it would also cost money that's not in the budget now.