Wed. May 29th, 2024

Key Points:

  • The North Dakota State Crime Lab had a backlog of rape kits waiting to be tested
  • New technology, including a tracking software, has helped decrease the backlog
  • About 30 to 40 rape kits are still being sent to the lab each month, posing a challenge to keep up with testing
  • New software allows victims to track the progress of their kits
  • The lab is working on getting technicians certified in a faster screening technique to improve efficiency

Last year, the State Crime Lab in North Dakota faced a significant backlog of rape kits waiting to be tested. The backlog was caused by staffing shortages and instrument breakdowns, which created delays in the testing process. However, the lab has managed to decrease the backlog, thanks in part to the implementation of new technology.

Previously, the lab had nearly 300 rape kits waiting to be tested, but that number has now been reduced to less than 80. Jennifer Penner, the lab’s director, explained that DNA analysts worked overtime for the past year to help report out on many of the cases. Despite the progress, the lab still receives about 30 to 40 rape kits per month, making it challenging to keep up with testing.

One of the reasons for the delays in testing rape kits is staffing shortages in medical centers and law enforcement agencies, as well as in the lab itself. Additionally, instrument breakdowns and the complexity of testing mixtures can also contribute to longer wait times.

To help track the kits and improve efficiency, the lab implemented new software that allows them to monitor the kits from the moment they are collected by law enforcement until they reach the lab for testing. This software also enables victims to log in and see the progress of their kits, providing them with more information and potentially speeding up the prosecution process.

In addition to the new tracking software, the lab is also working on getting technicians certified in a faster screening technique to further enhance efficiency. The goal is to have a 60-day turnaround from the time the kits are collected to the completion of testing. Currently, the lab is slightly above that mark.

Overall, the implementation of new technology, such as tracking software, has helped the State Crime Lab in North Dakota decrease their backlog of rape kits waiting to be tested. Although challenges still exist, the lab is making progress in reducing wait times and providing justice to victims of crimes.

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