Report finds SMC should keep public updated on rape kit testing

San Mateo County has eliminated its backlog of unprocessed rape kits but should provide the public with annual updates on the number of kits it collects and processes each year going forward.

Such was the conclusion of a civil grand jury report released Wednesday on the Peninsula.

The report, “Rape Kit Processing in San Mateo County,” examined the status of its processing of rape kits — the collection of forensic evidence taken from a sexual assault victim — in response to a July 2015 article in USA Today, which found there were 138 unprocessed kits in San Mateo County at the end of 2014. Nationwide, according to the article, there were some 70,000 rape untested rape kits at the time.

A law that went into effect in California in January recommends, but does not require, all rape kits are processed within 120 days of being collected. The report noted San Mateo County has a centralized system of handling rape kits and is therefore able to adhere to that recommendation.

Kits are collected at the San Mateo Medical Center’s Keller Center for Family Violence Intervention, regardless of where the assault occurred. The Sheriff’s Office Forensics Lab — which the report found is adequately staffed to curtail a future backlog — picks up the kits for processing once a week and returns them to police jurisdictions after they are processed.

The Forensics Lab processes about three to five rape kits a week, according to the report. Processing an individual kit takes an average of 41 days for 2016 cases.

While the Forensics Lab keeps records on rape kit testing and analysis, such information is not typically released to the public. The Civil Grand Jury report recommended that data be compiled and shared with the public each year.

Law enforcement agencies, the Keller Center, the Forensics Lab and other local organizations plan to release updated procedures later this month for county agencies to follow to better conform to the new law.

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