Evidence Ignored in Unsolved Rapes

Rj Brown - Civil Beat

Barely half of Honolulu rape cases were solved in 2009, but 60-80 percent of rape kits collected that year never made it to the crime lab for analysis, a Civil Beat investigation has found.

The Honolulu Police Department reported 243 rape cases in 2009, the most recent data available. Honolulu spokeswoman Michelle Yu said police solved 55 percent of those cases, leaving 109 unsolved. Nationally, 41 percent of rape cases were solved that year, according to the FBI.

Given HPD's estimate of how many kits are assessed in the crime lab each year, the department has a backlog of somewhere between 143 and 203 sexual assault kits left unexamined in the past two years. It's not known how many of these are associated with unsolved cases.

A study released this month by the National Institute of Justice found that much of the evidence collected from sexual assault cases across the nation is never used in investigations.

In 2,000 jurisdictions surveyed, researchers found that 18 percent of unsolved sexual assaults over a five-year period had untapped evidence associated with them. Instead, forensic material languished in storerooms while related cases remained unsolved. Honolulu was not included in the study.

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