Backlog of 13,000 rape kits a costly undertaking

There are more than 13,000 untested rape kits in Florida, and clearing the backlog will be a costly and time-consuming process, according to a report released Monday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

The FDLE surveyed law enforcement agencies statewide to tally the statistics. The agency determined in about 40 percent of the cases, the victims declined to proceed with the investigation. In roughly another third of them, prosecutors declined to move forward.

Kathleen Kempke, with Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, said cost often comes into play.

"It's an expensive process," she said. "They have to be trained and we want them well-trained, the folks that do this, so that's probably the main reason."

FDLE said it wants to make clearing the backlog a priority. One of its goal is to come up with evidence that could help find suspects in cases where there currently are none.

Gov. Rick Scott committed $8.5 million to helping the FDLE test the kits.

"FDLE is going to do their job. We're going to make sure they're funded to make sure they can do their job," Scott said. "I'm going to work with the legislature to make sure it's fully-funded."

But clearing the backlog could cost up to $32 million.

The FDLE determined the best way to handle the process is through outsourcing some of the untested kits, using federal funds for new technology and using state funds to pay lab technicians overtime.

The agency is planning to present its findings to the Legislature.