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Washington Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Shrinking

Sexual Assault Kits Backlogs On Track To Be Cleared By The WA Crime Lab In The Next 3 Months

September 11th, 2023

The Washington State Crime Lab reports that by the end of the year, scientists should be able to completely clear out massive backlogs of sexual assault kits that have been sitting on evidence shelves for decades.

According to Fox 13 Seattle, the Washington State Crime Lab is using a two pronged approach to get this done, this includes outsourcing older sexual assault kits to out of state labs for testing. However, the addition of three new machines has drastically sped the testing process for the new kits coming in.

The team of scientists at the Vancouver crime lab make up a human robotics workforce. The combinations of the mind and machine has drastically reduced the turnaround time for testing sexual assault kits. The current processing time is not just over a month if compared to what could have been up to a year or longer in the past.

Trevor Chowen, a forensics scientist and supervisor of the DNA section at the Vancouver crime lab stated that the goal is about 45 days for the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) to upload. That is a far cry for 2017, when the WA State Patrol estimated that there were roughly 12,000 sexual assault kits on evidence shelves statewide.

Kristina Hoffman, the Washington State Crime Lab DNA Operations Manager said that they are getting down in the home stretch and that they are getting results returned on those batches of cases. That is remarkable as the lab is also simultaneously keeping up with new sexual assault kits, all thanks to the three state of the art robotic work stations.

Chris Loftis, a spokesperson for the Washington State Patrol, stated that in July 2020, the WSP increased its capacity for DNA testing in the Vancouver Crime Lab by converting a previously empty, unfinished space into usable laboratory space dedicated for the processing of sexual assault kits. Dana Yenko, a scientist in the lab, said that the instruments are designed to help streamline the process, the lab work being automated, while also giving the scientists more time to do their analysis and write reports.

The sexual assault kits from nearly every law enforcement agency in the state are now being sent to the Vancouver crime lab, and by 2024, the goal is to be able to accommodate testing for all agencies. Loftis said that as of July 1st, sexual assault kits from every police agency in the state will be coming to the Vancouver crime lab, except for Seattle PD and King County Sheriff's Office, however, they are hoping to have them sent to Vancouver by the end of the year.

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