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Minnesota survey reveals more than 3,400 untested rape kits

ST. PAUL - A survey of law enforcement agencies in Minnesota shows there are more than 3,400 untested rape kits in evidence rooms across the state, according to results released Thursday by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

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Sarah Fulton, a registered nurse with Sanford Health Fargo, unpacks the contents of a rape kit Monday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

ST. PAUL – A survey of law enforcement agencies in Minnesota shows there are more than 3,400 untested rape kits in evidence rooms across the state, according to results released Thursday by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The survey, which was required by a state law passed this year, found that 171 agencies had 3,482 rape kits that had not been submitted for DNA testing as of July 1. Such kits consist of evidence collected from victims after sexual assaults.

A total of 434 agencies were surveyed. Of those, 25 agencies did not respond to the survey, and 238 agencies reported having no untested rape kits.

Locally, Moorhead police had three untested kits, Dilworth police had nine and the Clay County Sheriff's Office had one. Barnesville and Hawley police had no untested kits, and the Glyndon Police Department was among the agencies that did not respond to the survey.

The agency with the most untested kits was the Duluth Police Department with 578, about 17 percent of kits in the state, the survey showed.

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The BCA says there are several reasons why an agency would not submit a rape kit for DNA testing, including: the attacker confessed, the sex act was determined to be consensual, prosecution was declined or the victim chose not to take part in the investigation.

This year, the BCA has seen a steep increase in the number of rape kits submitted for testing, which has extended the turnaround time for testing such kits as well as evidence from other violent crimes, the bureau said.

Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger said that without sufficient resources for rape kit testing, he's concerned certain cases won't receive the priority they deserve.

"DNA testing is backlogged, and there's very, very important cases that have to sit and wait for weeks and even months to get results back," he said.

The BCA has proposed three options to state legislators for analyzing the evidence in the untested kits: test the kits internally, hire outside labs to do the testing or a combination of the two.

For the BCA to test the kits, it would cost $4.4 million and would take about three years with the help of eight more full-time employees, the bureau said.

Minnesota isn't the only state trying to deal with its untested rape kits. Several states have enacted reforms seeking to address backlogs in rape kit testing.

Federal government estimates put the number of untested kits nationwide in the hundreds of thousands. The number of untested kits in the Dakotas and Montana is unknown.

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