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Washington gets nearly $5.3 million to test backlogged rape kits

More backlogged rape kits will be tested and Washington crime labs will be improved thanks to four U.S. Department of Justice grants.

SEATTLE — Washington state has received nearly $5.3 million in grants to cut down on the rape kit backlog and improve state crime labs.

The four grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Institute of Justice were announced Tuesday.

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office will receive $1.5 million to inventory, test, and track unsubmitted rape kits and a $1 million grant to expand DNA collection from offenders.

Washington State Patrol got a grant for $1,857,667 to increase crime lab capacity, including equipping a new DNA section in the Vancouver crime lab. State patrol also got a grant for $920,921 that will digitize and store about 480,000 case records so they can be more easily accessed by investigators. Those records are currently archived in off-site storage.

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Last spring, lawmakers provided funding to hire scientists and expand state facilities to help process the estimated 10,000 untested DNA samples in the state.

When the law was passed, it could take six months to a year to process a kit, according to Washington State Patrol. The new law requires the state to process the test within 45 days of the sample being submitted.

Rape kits have proven to be effective in helping solve cases. Earlier this year, a kit linked a registered sex offender living in Florida to a 2006 rape of a Seattle girl. Because of the backlog, the rape kit wasn't tested until 2018.

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