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Keller orders APD to develop untested rape kit backlog plan

Saying that the previous administration didn't care about eliminating a massive backlog of untested rape kits in the city, Mayor Tim Keller on Wednesday ordered the Albuquerque Police Department to develop a plan to get approximately 4,000 untested kits processed.

That plan has to include the resources that would be needed to test those kits and the cost of doing so. And the plan has to be on Keller's desk by March 15 so he can include any funding requests in his budget, which goes to the City Council in the spring.

“This is something we cannot let stand any longer in our city,” Keller said as he announced an executive order requiring APD to work with the Albuquerque Sexual Assault Evidence Response Team (ASERT) to develop a plan to get those untested rape kits processed. “We need to actually finish the job,” Keller said.

Keller said the previous administration didn't seem interested in eliminating the backlog of untested rape kits in the city. He described their efforts on the issue as “sluggish” and suggested that they were making excuses for not eliminating the backlog. He said the biggest difference between his administration's approach to the backlog is “Owning the problem. No excuses.”

As state auditor, Keller highlighted the backlog of untested kits throughout the state. In December 2016, his office released an audit that found there were 5,440 untested kits throughout the state. Seventy-five percent of those were in Albuquerque.

Keller said Wednesday that Gov. Susana Martinez's administration has attacked the problem and developed a plan to have the kits outside of Albuquerque tested by the end of this year. But no such plan exists in Albuquerque even though last year APD received a $2.5 million grant from the federal government to test the kits.

Some of those untested kits are more than 10 years old, but it's important to get them processed because the DNA they yield is put into an FBI data base. And in other cities, those DNA entries have let to convictions of rapists, Keller said.

It's estimated that one in four women, and one in 20 men have been victims of sexual assault, Keller said, adding that 65 percent of sexual assault victims are minors.

Keller added that it'll cost around $4 million to eliminate Albuquerque's backlog. It takes about 40 hours and between $600 to $1,000 to test a single kit, advocates for rape victims said.

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