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State of Alaska Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (Photo: Courtesy of University of Alaska Anchorage)

Alaska’s crime lab is proposing the creation of a dedicated team to process new sexual assault kits in a timely manner.

The state Department of Public Safety has made progress in addressing the backlog of untested kits from across the state, bringing the number down from nearly 3,000 last year to about 2,500 this year, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

To prevent a new buildup of untested kits, the state Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory is seeking to split up its Forensic Biology Unit to create a Sexual Assault Team. The team would include four full-time forensic scientists and aims to process an additional 120 kits each year. The team and testing are estimated to cost $700,500 per year.

Efforts to process and test the backlog of kits ramped up last year when the state Legislature required law enforcement agencies in the state to report the number of kits that had not been submitted for testing. Sexual assault kits contain possible physical evidence taken from victims or suspects.

Testing in Alaska State Trooper cases is being funded by a $1.5 million federal grant awarded last year. All 577 of the state sexual assault kits have been submitted to a private lab for analysis, with the state receiving results from 340, according the department’s report to the state Legislature last week. The remaining kits are expected to be processed by March.

The state crime lab is testing kits from the remaining 47 law enforcement agencies across the state. The Legislature directed $2.75 million for kit testing earlier this year. The state Department of Public Safety expects all kits to be tested in three to four years.

Of the remaining kits this year, 87 percent, or 2,237 kits, are from six police agencies.

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