Police in Austin have found mold growing on the outside of 849 sexual assault testing kits that were in storage, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
The kits contain untested DNA evidence from hundreds of previously reported sexual assaults in the city, some of them decades old.
Since the kits hadn't yet been tested, and therefore not used to build a case against the perpetrators, police were concerned that the mold could have contaminated the evidence. Officials had to question state and national experts about how to keep the evidence from being compromised, if it wasn't already, according to the Statesman.
A company the police department hired to help them test the kits said that "there were no observable issues with any of the samples they processed with the case reported to have mold," Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay wrote in a memo Friday, the Statesman reports.
The Austin Police Department abruptly closed its DNA testing lab nine months ago when a state audit criticized its procedures and staff training, according to the Statesman. The PD had DNA evidence from 1,629 sexual assault cases stored in the refrigerator, of which 849 were found to have mold growing on the outside.
Chief Gay reportedly wrote in the memo that the boxes found to be infested with mold were all from the 1990s, which, for us, raises a much more important question than how well the Austin PD was storing their evidence. Why hadn't rape kits from approximately 20 to 30 years ago been tested yet?
Unfortunately, it's not a problem isolated to Austin. States aren't required to report how many sexual assault testing kits haven't yet been tested, according to End The Backlog, but some reports have found more than 70,000 kits gone untested in the US — though the real number is likely much higher.
According to End The Backlog, most police jurisdictions don't have clear policies on what to do with sexual assault evidence once it has been collected (and, usually, paid for by the survivor).
Texas is among those states, which may have been the reason the kits covered in mold were even found at all.
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