Three entities in Tarrant County were awarded grants from the U.S. Department of Justice to help reduce the DNA and rape kit backlog.
The funding, which totals $2,095,653, was divided between the city of Fort Worth, University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth and Tarrant County.
How much funding did each entity receive?
- City of Fort Worth: $708,323
- UNT Health Science Center: $787,330
- Tarrant County: $600,000
The grants come as part of the Department of Justice’s Capacity Enhancement for Backlog Reduction Program, which began providing grants to local and state laboratories in 2005.
The funding was also made possible by the Debbie Smith Act, which provides eligible funding to states and local governments to improve or expand the collection and analysis of DNA evidence. The act was authorized by U.S. Senator John Cornyn, who has helmed efforts on three separate laws intended to tackle the national rape kit backlog.
Rape kits, also referred to as sexual assault kits, are used in collection of evidence from the body and clothing of survivors of rape or sexual assault. Kits are transferred to an authorized law enforcement agency to be logged as evidence and later sent to a crime lab. A kit is considered backlogged when it remains untested after 30 days.
In Texas, there are over 6,100 untested rape kits, according to End the Backlog.
“As long as rape kits sit untested, authorities are failing the victims and communities we’ve sworn to protect,” Sen. Cornyn said in a prepared statement.
UNT Health Science Center’s laboratories will use the funding to process sexual assault kits and help with salaries for the people working on the cases, Dr. Michael Coble, associate professor with the Center for Human Identification at HSC, said.
“We view this work as civil service,” Melissa Haas, laboratory director with the Center for Human Identification at HSC, said. “Our goal is to aid the criminal justice system by helping aid investigation to not only find true perpetrators, but also identify individuals who may have been wrongfully accused or even convicted.”
The city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County did not respond to a request for comment before publication.
The three entities previously received $2 million funding to help reduce the backlog in Sept. 2022. Last year, the city of Fort Worth was awarded $777,735, UNT Health Science Center $804,791 and Tarrant County $461,000 in grants.
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