Originally on WECT

May 1, 2019

The amount of backlogged, untested rape kits in the North Carolina State Crime Lab has caught the attention of Attorney General Josh Stein.

North Carolina currently has a backlog of 15,000 rape kits. In January, Stein announced the Survivor Act, legislation he is working to help pass that will provide funding to test the old kits and put in place requirements that will prevent such a backlog from occurring again.

“It will require law enforcement, within 45 days of a reported sexual assault, to just send the kit for analysis and then that way it will never happen again,” said Stein.

Though the new law might prevent future problems, officials still need money to actually test the old kits. If they don’t outsource the workload, they could overwhelm the state lab. The attorney general estimates the cost could be about $6 million.

So how did it get so backlogged?

“Local law enforcement get a case and they’re doing the investigation and for whatever reason they never submit it for analysis,” Stein explained.

The Wilmington Police Department has sent 64 rape kits to labs outside the state and an additional 10 to the state crime lab.

“Our property and evidence technicians are working. Even today, I mean right now, their office is full of kits that we’re submitting,” said Captain Thomas Tilmon with Wilmington Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division.

Tilmon believes the problem goes back many decades.

“In the 90′s and 2000′s, the lab was getting picky about what cases we were allowed to send them and that caused a backlog in most agents’ evidence repository,” said Captain Tilmon, “We’re trying to do that backlog and make sure that those cases get analyzed too.”