13,435 Untested Rape Kits Found in Florida; 27 Percent Are in Miami-Dade

A standard sexual assault evidence kit.
A standard sexual assault evidence kit.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has identified more 13,435 untested rape kits in the state after conducting a study ordered by the Florida Legislature. The City of Miami Police Department had 2,243, the most of any agency that took part in the survey. The Miami-Dade Police Department, meanwhile, had 1,350 untested rape kits, the second most of any agency. 

Though most of the kits tested were taken in cases that weren't prosecuted for various reasons, advocates say that testing the huge backlog of kits could help solve cold cases and lead to the identification of serial rapists across the state. The release follows news out of Detroit that made national headlines. A Wayne County prosecutor noticed more than 11,000 untested rape kits sitting in storage in Detroit alone. After the majority of those tests were conducted, prosecutors identified more than 477 serial rape suspects and have already secured 21 convictions. 

Participation in the analysis was voluntary, but the report says 91 percent of police forces and sheriff's departments throughout Florida took part. Here are the numbers of untested rape kits reported by agencies within Miami-Dade. In many cases, smaller police forces do not handle sexual assault cases themselves and instead rely on the Miami-Dade Police Department. In parentheses, when applicable, are the number of kits that under state guidelines should be submitted for testing. 

Aventura Police Department: 6 (0)
Bal Harbour Police Department: 0 
Bay Harbor Islands Police Department: 0 
City of Miami Police Department: 2243 (2243) 
Florida International University Police Department: 0 
Golden Beach Police Department: 0
Hialeah Police Department: 102 (102)
Indian Creek Police Department: 0 
Medley Police Department: 0 
Miami Shores Police Department: 0 
Miami-Dade Police Department: 1,350 (1,350)
North Miami Police Department: 4 (0)
South Miami Police Department: 0
Surfside Police Department: 0 
Village of Pinecrest Police Department: 0 

Notable numbers from several forces in Miami-Dade County — including Miami-Beach, Doral, and Coral Gables — were not included in the survey. 

Throughout the state, the report shows that 9,484 should be submitted for testing under state guidelines. The reasons that the department did not test those kits varied:

• 41% - Victim decided not to proceed with the investigation. This category includes
victims who after first reporting the crime did not participate in the investigation or
prosecution of the case.
• 31% - State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute.
• 20% - Suspect pled guilty.
• 18% - SAK collected from nonreporting victim. A nonreporting victim is someone who
has a kit collected pursuant to an alleged assault but does not wish to file a police
report. The kit may be held by local law enforcement or by a rape crisis center for a
period of time in the event the victim decides to report. Only if a report is filed, and the
victim consents to testing, is the kit forwarded to a laboratory for testing. 

The report finds that about half of the tests are from agencies that rely on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's crime lab to process kits. FDLE claims it could cost as much as $32 million and take up to eight years to process those kits. The report suggests various ways to fund the effort.

However, in Miami-Dade, kits are tested at the county's own lab, and the county would have to find its own separate money to test them. That works out to 3,695 tests in the county that would need to be submitted (almost 28 percent of the total throughout the state), and that's not including any kits that may be held by the local departments that didn't report their numbers.

However, the report outlines why testing all rape kits is beneficial to crime fighting and public safety. 

"For example, in the case of a sexual assault where a [sexual assault kit] is collected from the victim and submitted to FDLE, a DNA sample of the suspected perpetrator is developed from the swabs in the kit," the report reads. "The profile attributed to the perpetrator is entered into FDLE’s DNA Database and searched against convicted offender and arrestee profiles through CODIS. If there is a 'hit,' the laboratory will go through procedures to confirm the match and, if confirmed, will obtain the identity of the suspected perpetrator. The DNA profile is also searched against the database of crime scene profiles in an attempt to link two or more crimes. The law enforcement agencies involved in these cases are then able to share the information obtained on each of the cases and possibly develop additional leads."

Though the number seems high, FDLE identified several cases where the backlog of a single department is comparable to the total backlog in the entire state of Florida. In 2000, NYPD alone had 17,000 untested rape kits and was able to test all of them in only four years. Los Angeles identified 12,500 untested kits in 2009 and tested all of those in about three years.

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