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Houston Praised for Handling of Rape Kit Backlog

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Houston's success in clearing its backlog of untested rape kits should be held up as a model for other cities around Texas to follow, officials said Wednesday.

    Houston has spent $4.4 million in federal and city funding to address its backlog of more than 6,600 rape kits, Mayor Annise Parker said. 

    The funding was used by the city to send its rape kits to two outside labs for testing. Parker said she expects the testing to be completed by the end of this year or early next year.

    Parker said Houston's approach wasn't easy or inexpensive and it came during a difficult economic time but it was the right way to deal with a problem that had been decades in the making.

    "My hope is other cities around the state can learn from our approach," she said at a news conference.

    Testing and reports have been completed on nearly 2,800 cases, with 464 cases yielding usable DNA that is being entered into federal databases. Parker said one charge and one arrest have so far resulted from the testing.

    Parker said while Houston was able to pay for its testing of the backlog with the help of federal funding, she is hopeful other cities around Texas will be able to take advantage of $11 million in state funding that was appropriated during this year's legislative session to pay for the testing of a backlog of about 20,000 rape kits around the state. Officials estimate the backlog around the country is about 400,000.

    State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democratic candidate for governor who helped secure the $11 million to address the backlog around the state, attributed Houston's success in part to bipartisan cooperation at city, state and federal levels of government to secure funding to deal with the problem.

    "The city of Houston is making remarkable progress in bringing victims of sexual assault closure, bringing perpetrators to justice, making our streets safer for families ... and I'm pleased it is a stellar example of what a city can do when given the kind of partnership and resources that have been provided here," Davis said.