Austin Police Department's rape kit backlog receives much needed help

Austin City Council authorized a $2 million contract with Signature Science LLC to help clear the Austin Police Department's rape kit backlog. APD said it will continue to search for more contracts until the backlog is cleared.

Austin City Council authorized a $2 million contract with Signature Science LLC to help clear the Austin Police Department's rape kit backlog. APD said it will continue to search for more contracts until the backlog is cleared.

The rape kit backlog at the Austin Police Department will receive much-sought-after help after Austin City Council on Thursday approved a multi-million contract with a local forensics lab.

The $2 million contract with the Austin-based Signature Science LLC will allow APD to send 60 DNA and rape kits per month to the private forensics lab, which the city hopes will assist in the expedient clearing of the police department’s backlog of over 1,000 cases.

District 4 Council Member Greg Casar requested the APD shoot for as many contracts as needed to clear the backlog.

"I'm worried about the message survivors [of sexual assault] in the community receive when they learn that the [forensics] lab is still closed," Casar said. "This contract is needed, but we still have a long way to go."

According to Interim Police Chief Brian Manley, the contract will be funded with $1.2 million in forfeited funds—money received by the department through different policing operations—and $800,000 in grant money.

Last year, the council approved a contract with Dallas-based Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences, or SWIFS, to take 100 cases every two weeks. However, the lab has only been able to take 20 cases per month.

According to Manley, with the 20 cases going to SWIFS and the 60 cases going to Signature Science LLC, the police department will be able to keep up with the current case flow although it will not allow for much of a dent to be made in the backlog.

Manley said the department is searching for local partnerships to help clear the backlog. The department hopes to start sending 15-20 cases per month to the Texas Department of Public Safety and between 20 and 40 cases per month to North Texas University in four months.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


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