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Processing Rape Kits Catches Rapists

I’ve written many times about the thousands of rape kits that were found in a Detroit police crime lab, kits that had never been analyzed at all. Some progress is being made on getting through that backlog and it is producing important results, identifying more than 100 rapists.

Back in 2009, over 11,000 kits were found abandoned in a Detroit Police storage facility. After processing just 1,600 of them so far, Detroit has identified about 100 serial rapists and ten convicted rapists. Those perpetrators have moved on from Michigan to commit similar crimes in 23 other states.

Of course, Detroit is not alone. Nationwide, there are an estimated400,000 untested rape kits. One of our favorite actress/activists Law and Order: SVU’s Mariska Hargitay (read her Feministing Five interview here) has been raising awareness about this issue for awhile now. Her organization, The Joyful Heart Foundation, has launched a project called End The Backlog to pressure cities and states to prioritize testing their kits. (She’s also producing adocumentary about the problem.) And thankfully, 17 states have proposed new legislation to address their backlogs…

Of course, the most urgent and concrete reason we should be testing rape kits is that they can identify rapists. (That’s kinda the point.) And since most rapists are serial rapists, that helps prevent future assaults. The stats from Detroit are similar to those in other cities and states that have tackled their backlogs: Once New York City processed its 17,000-kit backlog in 2001, the arrest rate for rape cases jumped from 40 percent to 70 percent. After working through 2,000 untested kits, Ohio has found nearly 200 matches with DNA in a criminal database.

President Obama’s proposed 2015 budget includes $35 million to speed up this process of clearing the rape kit backlog. We can only hope Congress will pass it.

Comments

  1. says

    Those perpetrators have moved on from Michigan to commit similar crimes in 23 other states.

    I’m sure their victims are really appreciative of Detroit’s excellent work. Wanna bet the Detroit cops spent their bake sale money on guns and ammo and fancy clothes or something cool like that, instead of their crime lab?

  2. Artor says

    I have to wonder about the astounding apathy that leads to stockpiling & ignoring rape kits like this. Are Detroit (and other) police really THAT insensitive to the ongoing rape epidemic? You’d think the opportunity to bust serial rapists and pad their resume’s would be incentive enough, but apparently not. Or are there perhaps people inside the police departments who don’t want this data processed for…personal…reasons?

  3. Trebuchet says

    President Obama’s proposed 2015 budget includes $35 million to speed up this process of clearing the rape kit backlog. We can only hope Congress will pass it.

    But that would be BIG GUBMINT! BIG GUBMINT! And besides, most of those aren’t “legitimate rapes” and the sluts were probably asking for it. And it’s proposed by Barrack HUSSEIN Obama. CREEPING SHARIA!!!

    (/snark)

  4. says

    Mariska Hargity did an episode of L&O: SVU a few years ago where her character traveled across the country trying to connect a serial rapist with other cases. It was really depressing to see her character go to one city after another to find out that rape kits from cases 5-10 years ago weren’t processed and, in many instances, contaminated or even lost.

    I’m amazed that this issue hasn’t seen much national attention. It truly is a tragedy.

  5. says

    Trebuchet@4:

    Well, there’s always the small government solution the former mayor of Wassila endorsed: charging rape victims for their rape kits. I’m sure the republicans can work that into their outreach efforts to women.

  6. schism says

    President Obama’s proposed 2015 budget includes $35 million to speed up this process of clearing the rape kit backlog. We can only hope Congress will pass it.

    Ha. This is why I could never bring myself to idealism or hopefulness; the thought of being disappointed every waking moment is too depressing.

  7. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    If Obama’s come out in favor of catching rapists, it can’t be long before rapist protection becomes part of the GOP platform.

  8. dingojack says

    Ed -”Processing Rape Kits Catches Rapists
    … and in other news water discovered to be wet. Film at 11. @@

    We should expect about 688 serial rapists and another 69 convicted rapists when they’ve done all 11000. Can’t happen soon enough!

    Artor (#3) – to be fair — Detroit — the city where it takes 50 minutes for the cops to come (if at all) because there’s no money to properly fund and equip a reasonable number of them. (Don’t assign to malice that which can be assigned to insanely short-sighted budget cuts). :(

    Dingo

  9. Michael Heath says

    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne writes:

    If Obama’s come out in favor of catching rapists, it can’t be long before rapist protection becomes part of the GOP platform.

    Trebuchet responds:

    It has been for years, at least unofficially. Where have you been?

    I do not fully appreciate how women can support the American conservative movement and the GOP given its current dominance of the party. And while the GOP has earned our disgust for its rhetoric and policies regarding women’s rights, the failure Ed addresses here is a liberal failure.

    I think the Democratic party has made enormous advances over the past several decades in terms of competency. And a large reason for that is due to their largely abandoning the type of horrible policies and management style that liberals used to run Detroit into the ground. In this case the putrid rhetoric of some GOP legislators is not so much worse than Detroit failing to test rape kit tests and pursue those who are ID’d. So let’s not create red herrings to direct our attention away from who is culpable here.

    And yes, I’m cognizant that conservatives and the GOP also contributed to the demise of Detroit. But unlike nearly the entire rest of the country, when we consider which party and ideology that’s mostly culpable for Detroit, its Democratic liberals. The good news is that Democrats and liberals in general learned their lessons and adapted thanks to their generally having open personalities, while we see conservatives and the GOP descend ever deeper into a lunatic form of incompetency given their close mindedness.

  10. says

    “President Obama’s proposed 2015 budget includes $35 million to speed up this process of clearing the rape kit backlog. We can only hope Congress will pass it.”

    Why would anyone pass it? The victims were only women, you know…

    /sarcasm

  11. D. C. Sessions says

    President Obama’s proposed 2015 budget includes $35 million to speed up this process of clearing the rape kit backlog. We can only hope Congress will pass it.

    Precisely, Ed. It would be wonderful if “hope” weren’t the limit but there’s no point in going off into unrealistic fantasy.

  12. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Are Detroit (and other) police really THAT insensitive to the ongoing rape epidemic?

    And/or that afraid of getting caught.

  13. TxSkeptic says

    How about pure fiscal responsibility?
    How much does it cost to process a rape kit?
    How much does it cost to take the police report & follow up investigation for a single rape?
    How many rapes are prevented by processing a rape kit and catching the perp?
    THus, how much money is saved by not having as many rapes to investigate?

    Well, ok, it will cost more to house the perp than to just ignore the rapes, but the industrial-prison complex doesn’t seem to have a problem with that side when unnecessarily housing people for ‘victimless’ crimes like immigration or drug violations.

    How about Obama signing an executive order mandating that rape kit processing funds be immediately transferred from drug enforcement funds?

  14. dingojack says

    Whoops post this on the wrong thread. *

    MH (#11) – OT (sorta) Check out Detroit Mayor William G. Thompson (b. 1842, Mayor 1880-3, d. 1904)
    The FoAW notes:


    In 1878, Thompson married Adele Campau, but the two began divorce proceedings in 1888. The couple’s acrimony caused a sensational and public fight between Thompson and Adele’s brother Daniel Campau, in which Thompson was considerably pummeled. Campau had warned Thompson just prior to the fight that “he must not talk about his wife hereafter in barrooms and other public places, as he had been doing.”
    Thompson died on July 20, 1904, in Yonkers, New York, of injuries received after being knocked down by a bicycle. He is interred at Princeton Cemetery in Princeton, New Jersey.”

    Politics throws up characters alright. :)

    Dingo
    ——–
    * Yes, yes I am a complete idiot – thanks for asking…. :)

  15. Pierce R. Butler says

    Michael Heath @ # 11: … when we consider which party and ideology that’s mostly culpable for Detroit, its Democratic liberals.

    What did they do (besides accommodate white flight and corporate control)?

  16. Artor says

    Dingo @10
    Detroit, plus San Antonio TX, Hollywood FL, Memphis TN, Robbins IL, Chicago IL, Los Angeles CA, Houston TX, etc ad nauseum. This is not just a case of Detroit not having the budget to follow through on rape cases.

  17. wscott says

    Are Detroit (and other) police really THAT insensitive to the ongoing rape epidemic?

    Speaking as someone who knows a lot of cops, I’d say it’s less insensitive than cynical and jaded. Not that that makes it any better.

  18. Michael Heath says

    Pierce Butler writes:

    What did they do (besides accommodate white flight and corporate control)?

    They were corrupt. They practiced cronyism. Decades ago they passed budgets that guaranteed bankruptcy in the future. They elected dumb people who incompetently governed. They were incapable of diversifying their economic base. Long-time Mayor Coleman Young and his attendant city councils were instead quite adept at driving business out of the city.This went on for decades.

    And it’s a lie this was merely ‘white flight’. Black people also prudently left in droves. The fact the city was dying was well known in the state by the late-1970s; and what did these liberal Detroit Democrats do? They got even worse at governing. See a pattern here (today’s GOP)?

    As I stated before, the difference nationwide was that American liberals and Democrats didn’t follow these sorts of liberals down the Detroit rabbit hole, contra what we’ve observed from Republicans since the advent of Newt Gingrich and the so-called Moral Majority whose infection is now nation-wide.

  19. says

    Sarah Palin would probably say it’s the rape-victims’ fault because they didn’t offer to pay for the rape-kits like they do in Alaska.

  20. dingojack says

    Artor – you asked “Are Detroit (and other) police really THAT insensitive to the ongoing rape epidemic?”

    So your riposte is: ‘They did it too (therefore there must have been exactly the same reasoning behind each different city’s response. It could only be ‘insensitivity to the rape epidemic’)? Really? No other causes might have been a factor? None at all?

    Dingo

  21. Pierce R. Butler says

    Michael Heath @ # 24: They were corrupt. They practiced cronyism. Decades ago they passed budgets that guaranteed bankruptcy in the future. They elected dumb people who incompetently governed. They were incapable of diversifying their economic base.

    I know of no reason to challenge the factuality of any of this, but – as you point out – nothing in any of this necessarily connects to either liberalism or the Democratic Party per se.

    You could make a case that Detroit failed because the US automobile industry failed – and the latter happened because neither political party pressed the complacent fat cats to improve mileage or safety features in their products to keep pace with European and Asian manufacturers. In short: insufficient “liberalism” in the face of market failure.

  22. timberwoof says

    The War on Drugs is more fun because everyone you arrest, you can extract the names of more people to arrest. It doesn’t much matter whether those people actually had anything to do with drugs; you just go arrest each one of those and play the game again, broadening your net.

    But rapists? They don’t operate in big networks; they don’t all know each other. Arrest one rapist and that’s the end of that. There’s rarely a case where a rapist will implicate someone else in the crime.

    So the cops apparently have motive to focus on the War on Poor People Who Can Be Accused of Drug Abuse than to find rapists.

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