- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A state crime lab official said Thursday that it can take up to 1 1/2 years for sexual assault kits to be tested due to a backlog.

Orin Dym testified before the House State Affairs Committee, which was hearing a bill from Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, to address that backlog. The committee did not take immediate action on the bill.

The kits provide tools to collect DNA evidence after an individual reports a sexual assault.

It’s unknown how many kits have been collected but not analyzed. Tarr’s bill would direct the state Department of Public Safety to work with local law enforcement entities to prepare a report on those kits and develop a plan to get them tested. Such an effort would not require additional staff at the state level and had a zero fiscal note.

Dym said the lab has about 150 untested kits right now, and it can take up to a year and a half to get a kit processed once it gets there. Dym said that it will likely take about two years to get through the current backlog.

Dym said the lab generally has enough staff and funding, but that it takes time to get new staff up to speed on analysis, which is one of the reasons for the backlog and delay.

In response to questions from committee members, he said that outsourcing analysis to a private crime lab for 111 of those kits, the ones for whom there is a suspect in the case, would enable the lab to get through the backlog in about one year; that would cost approximately $330,000.

The lab doesn’t have that much extra money in its annual budget of about $6 million, so such a project would require an appropriation from the Legislature, he said.

There were more people signed up to testify than the committee had time for, but chair Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, said he supported the bill and scheduled another hearing so the public could weigh in.

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