- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (AP) - Officials are hopeful Utah’s major rape kit backlog will be reduced now that a new state crime laboratory has opened where robotic machines can extract DNA samples and deliver them to forensic technicians much faster than humans.

During the opening of a new Unified State Laboratory Thursday in Taylorsville, Lab Director Jay Henry said the robotics station does the repetitive work of extracting DNA, then delivers the data to forensic scientists. In addition to freeing up a technician to do more analytical work, the station is capable of extracting DNA faster.

The station is capable of processing 96 samples in less than eight hours, a task that took Henry three or four days when he worked as a lab technician.

Half of the backlog has been processed by the crime lab or outsourced labs. Henry said the crime lab is optimistic that the remaining kits will be tested within the next year.

“We want to see the greater-than-a-year turnaround time for our rape kits shrink gradually down to 120 days, down to 90, down to 60,” said Henry, who intends to hire nine more people to help process the backlog alongside new rape kits.

Henry’s goal is to have rape kits processed and returned to law enforcement agencies in less than 30 days, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/2s1wiRt ).

The lab, which houses the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office and the Department of Agriculture and Food, also features chemistry labs, a ballistics firing range, vehicle processing bays and trace evidence labs.

“This new building is a significant upgrade for all of these different entities, allowing … more collaboration, to get better outcomes and better results,” said Gov. Gary Herbert, who was the lieutenant governor when the lab was proposed 10 years ago.

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