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Backlog of 3,482 untested rape kits in Minnesota is revealed

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There are 3,482 untested rape kits in Minnesota, the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) announced.

The agency released its most comprehensive look at the rape kit backlog Thursday after Minnesota lawmakers directed law enforcement officials to count the number of untested kits and provide a complete inventory by Dec. 1, 2015, including why the kits haven't been processed.

These kits, which are collected at hospitals after a victim reports a sexual assault, can contain DNA and other evidence that can be used to identify a suspect.

Of the law enforcement agencies in Minnesota, 171 reported having rape kits that were not passed on to the BCA for testing.

The agencies with the most untested kits: Duluth Police Department (578 kits), the Anoka County Sheriff's Office (495), St. Cloud Police Department (306), Minneapolis Police Department (194) and Rochester Police Department (145). (See the full list here.)

The most common reasons agencies gave for not examining the kits included the victims saying they didn't want to proceed, prosecution was denied, the suspect confessed so DNA wasn't needed, and "other,"the BCA says.

But cost also plays into why agencies choose not to test rape kits in certain situations, the Daily Beast reported last year, saying the lack of testing is one reason why many sexual assault cases don't end in a conviction.

News that there are hundreds of thousands of untested kits across the country has sparked outrage. (This summer, USA Today did an in-depth look at untested rape kits in the U.S., read that story here.)

Many advocates, like the Joyful Heart Foundation, have been pushing to clear the backlog of untested rape kits, saying testing them sends a message that people who commit the crime will be punished, while also showing support for victims of sexual abuse.

However, others, including Kristen Houlton Sukura, the executive director of the Sexual Violence Center in Minneapolis, told the Star Tribune she is concerned the kits will be tested when victims didn't want to pursue charges, which would be a violation of their rights and privacy.

But she did commend the state for working to address the problem, telling the paper: "Now we can see that even in Minnesota where we think we do a great job supporting people, even here this is a problem."

So, what's next?

Now that there's a list of all the untested rape kits – what's next?

State legislators' order didn't call for more testing of rape kits, but agencies across the state have increased the number of kits they've been submitting. The BCA says DNA evidence submitted for testing has jumped 43 percent in the past five years, which has increased the turnaround time for results.

The BCA says that should be considered when lawmakers decide how to proceed with the untested kits. They may decide all the kits need to be tested.

But that's expensive – the BCA's report says the agency could test all 3,482 kits in three years if they hired at least eight full-time employees. The process would cost more than $4 million.

Earlier this year, Congress approved more than $40 million in federal spending to test an estimated 400,000 kits nationwide, The Associated Press reported.

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