November 30, 2015

More money, resources need for rape kit backlog

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

More money was the common solution given to an interim legislative committee on Monday.

The legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee asked a panel of experts including the New Mexico State Auditor and the Department of Public Safety Secretary how the state can reduce the number of rape kits that are currently sitting untested in labs.

Roundhouse Rotunda

John Krebsbach, a lab director of  the Albuquerque Police Department, told the committee he could sum up the solution to backlogged kits in one word.

“Money,” Krebsbach said.

There are more than 5,000 untested rape kits in the state. While there were many solutions regarding the logistics of how to get through pending kits, ultimately they all came back to money.

Department of Public Safety Secretary Greg Fouratt told the committee there are a number things that would help process pending tests.

“We need a larger footprint we need more scientists we need more equipment and we need more of the stuff we consume in the lab,” Fouratt said.

Julianna Koob, a legislative advocate with the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, told lawmakers that more money would also help in other ways.

“It simply comes down to a lack of resources,” Koob said. “We need to fund services to rape crisis victims.”

In answering a question about how old some of the kits are, Fouratt said when he surveyed law enforcement from around the state, he only asked how many kits there were and not specific details.

New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller told the committee that his office is conducting an audit to determine more details about the backlog. He added that his office hopes to compile a number of “best practices” that may help to clear up the number of untested kits

A variety of issues like more lab space and personnel, but ultimately lawmakers were told the solution was more money in one form or another.

Fouratt said lawmakers should be prepared to hear from him asking for more money during the upcoming 30-day legislative session.

“When you see those funding requests from DPS, please look kindly on them,” Fouratt said.