Council member tables rape kit funding vote

HPD said it needs to research backlog problem before it can start testing

HOUSTON, Texas - Because of one Houston City Council member's vote, thousands of rape kits remain untested, leaving thousands of victims in limbo and without closure.

When the Houston Police Department won a federal grant this year, it came in two phases-- $178,000 to research the problem of the backlog and how to tackle it, and another $821,000 for testing the kits and associated investigative costs.

Council member Jolanda Jones questions whether HPD is spending too much money on researching the problem and not enough on testing the backlog of more than 6,000 rape kits sitting in evidence. Some of the kits have been in storage for decades.

"I've been asking questions for a very long time and they have been unable to answer the questions," Jones said. "I want to know how many kits have been tested. I don't have that number."

HPD officials said they can't say how many kits have been or will be tested with the money. Without that answer, Jones said she postponed a city council vote on whether the police department should get the second half of the grant money.

Until the research is done, HPD said it won't know how many kits need to be tested, exactly how big the backlog is or which kits even have evidence that can be tested.

Getting the kits tested is crucial, but HPD has to understand the problem before it can deal with it, Sonia Coralles with the Houston Area Women's Center said.

"It's good for prosecution, it's good for the police department and for us, that it's good for survivors that they really do feel and understand how the criminal justice system works," Coralles said.

HPD receives an average of 930 rape kits for testing each year. A city council vote on whether the department should receive the second part of the grant money is expected to come up again next week.

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