850 Matches Found in FBI Database After Houston Clears Rape Kit Backlog
Charges have been filed in 29 cases since testing was completed in the fall
Evidence from more than 6,600 rape kits, some of which went untested for three decades, has produced 850 matches in the FBI’s database, the Houston Forensic Science Center said in a statement released on Monday.
Charges have been filed in 29 cases thus far, and the Harris County District Attorney’s office expects more cases will be brought to its office for prosecution.
“Now that the testing of these sexual assault kits are complete, it is up to the Houston Police Department and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to investigate and to seek justice for the victims,” the District Attorney’s office said in an emailed statement to PEOPLE.
D.A. Devon Anderson acknowledged that while some of those kits sat untested, the suspects went on to commit more assaults.
“It did happen, unfortunately,” Anderson told the Houston Chronicle of repeat offenders. “We are eagerly looking forward to prosecuting those rapists, those repeat rapists.”
The city is among the first in the country to eliminate its backlog of untested kits, a common problem across the United States due to the high cost of testing, which ranges from $500 to $1,000 per kit, according to the Associated Press.
Houston was able to clear its backlog with the help of a $1.5 million National Institute of Justice grant. But that was only enough for 500 kits, so the city’s mayor decided to contribute $2.2 million of city funds as well as another $2.2 million in federal funding in order to test every single kit.
“This milestone is of special importance to rape survivors and their families and friends,” Mayor Annise Parker said, per the HFSC statement.
The project has led to changes in how officials will investigate rape cases going forward. For example, now the HFSC will no longer wait for police to request testing on a specific kit, but will instead pick up kits weekly and test everything.
Also, the Houston Police Department has now hired a Justice Advocate to act as a liaison between investigators and victims. The Houston Area Women’s Center will also provide a full-time counselor to help survivors, the HFSC confirms.
“Our role and primary goal on this task force has always been to advocate for survivors and provide a safe and supportive environment where they can address the trauma that results from sexual violence,” said Sonia Corrales, chief program officer for the Houston Area Women’s Center.
A spokesman for the Houston Police Department tells PEOPLE that authorities are “moving forward” with the investigations.
“There’s still work to be done on all those cases,” he said, adding: “There’s too many open investigations right now for us to actually provide any kind of comment on anything. Most of these cases are still considered active.”