Backlog of sexual assault kits eliminated for first time: Pritzker

The governor pointed to the greater use of technology and beefing up staffing levels.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker, seen here in April, said that for the first time ever, Illinois has completely eliminated a backlog of sexual assault kits that were required to be processed within six months of the assault.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinois has eliminated a backlog of testing sexual assault kits.

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Despite a 2010 Illinois law mandating the processing of sex assault kits within six months of a crime, the backlog of untested evidence continued to mount.

Blame a lack of resources.

But for the first time, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said Friday, the backlog — at about 1,800 kits in early 2019 — is now down to zero.

“Under my predecessor, there was a massive backlog of DNA from sexual assault cases waiting to be processed, letting criminals off the hook and failing survivors,” Pritzker said in a statement.

“When I came into office, my administration made it our mission to support survivors in pursuit of justice. We made historic investments in the Division of Forensic Services to hire additional personnel, acquire state-of-the-art robotics to speed up turnaround time, and implement new software to make our laboratories as efficient as possible.”

Though the 2010 Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act mandates testing, it does so only if resources are available, according to the governor’s office.

During the last two years, the Illinois State Police has reduced its total forensic backlog by about 72%, according to the governor’s office.

“It is part of our mission to bring justice to those who have survived sexual assault as quickly as possible,” ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly said in a statement. “Thanks to improved efficiencies in our workflow, the use of new technology, continued hiring of forensic scientists, and the great work and dedication of ISP Division of Forensic Services staff, we have dramatically improved our efforts to bring justice to those survivors.”

Carrie Ward, CEO of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, called the backlog elimination “substantial progress.”

“When ICASA became part of the initial Illinois joint sexual assault task force, the horror stories of evidence collection kit backlogs were numerous,” Ward said Friday during a state police news conference in downstate Belleville. “Kits were found untested across the state. The wait time for results from kits that were tested stretched into years instead of months or weeks.Today we can acknowledge the substantial progress the Illinois State Police has made to decrease the turnaround time in processing sexual assault assignments.”

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