JACKSON, Miss. – Thousands of rape kits go untested every year. In recent reports New Mexico has a backlog of nearly 5,000 untested rape kits. WJTV went inside the state crime lab to see where Mississippi’s numbers compare.
“It is actual eyes on, touching, physically handling, examining the evidence so hours upon hours are involved,” explains Director Sam Howell of the State Crime Laboratory. He says there are about 100 untested rape kits currently in the lab.
Evidence such as hair and swabbings from a victim’s body are collected for testing, each packaged individually. All have to be tested. “It could be hundreds to thousands of dollars to examine one case,” says Howell.
It’s the state crime lab that foots the bill. In fiscal year 2015 the department received $7-million in state money. Howell says they’ve seen in an influx in cases and a decrease in manpower.
“We are beginning to have a staffing shortage. Actually we have dropped our staffing about 15 percent in the past three to four years,” says Howell. The director says the oldest cases they have currently are over a year old.
“We’re slowly starting to see us lose ground and create a backlog again. If we we don’t get some assistance, I see us recreating this backlog that we worked so hard to get rid of in the mid-2000’s,” says Howell. “In the long run we see our backlog getting higher and higher.”