CITY HALL — Aldermen demanded answers from city and state police Monday over an extensive backlog in the processing of rape evidence kits.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) called it "surprising to say the least" that the Police Department submitted 957 rape kits to the State Police lab last year, yet received findings back from only 271 — some of which may have dated from previous years.
Burke called that "a considerable gap," adding that he was confounded at how the Police Department didn't even keep records on which evidence kits had been processed and which were still under consideration by the police lab.
According to Burke, the city submitted about 1,000 evidence kits on rape cases to the State Police lab every year from 2008 on, but could only add that it had received 271 back last year — from whenever they were submitted.
"We don't know where they are after that," said Sharmili Majmudar, executive director of the Chicago-based Rape Victim Advocates.
The Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Majmudar testified before the Finance Committee and Chairman Burke that Illinois lacked "sufficient resources" to process the kits in a timely and efficient manner.
"It's kind of like going to the deli counter and getting a number, only the number is in the thousands," Majmudar said.
She called the backlog "unconscionable" and said it only served to "prolong the trauma" for rape victims. She said Rape Victim Advocates deals with about 600 women, children and men who are victims of rape each year.
"We don't know where they are after that," Majmudar said.
According to Majmudar, New York City processes rape evidence kits in six weeks to three months. "That is what we should strive for," she said, adding that it required only the "political will" to make it a priority.
"Justice delayed is justice denied," Burke said.
"We need to continue to look at this," said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd). "This is shocking."
The committee passed an order sponsored by Burke and Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) calling for the Police Department to explain the backlog, and it goes to the full City Council for approval on Wednesday.
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