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Languishing evidence in over 100,000 sexual assault cases around the country has been sent for DNA testing with money from a New York prosecutor and federal authorities, spurring over 1,000 arrests and hundreds of convictions in three years, officials said Tuesday.
It's estimated that another 155,000 or more sex assault evidence kits still await testing, and thousands of results have yet to be linked to suspects. Many who have been identified can't be prosecuted because of legal time limits and other factors.
Failure - Government - Law - Enforcement - Levels
Still, "we have begun to rectify what has been a tragic failure of government and law enforcement at all levels — a decades-long, systematic denial of equal rights for women in the justice system," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement while releasing results of his $38 million investment in testing outside his own turf.
Law enforcement and lawmakers have faced growing calls in recent years to eliminate what's known as the rape kit backlog — swabs and samples collected in sex assault cases but never tested for DNA. Victims' advocates see the untested kits as signs that sexual assaults weren't taken seriously enough.
Vance - Office - New - York - City
Vance, who took office after New York City cleared its own testing backlog, and the Department of Justice have worked in tandem since 2015 to help other places tackle theirs.
The two agencies have paid to send years-old kits to labs from dozens of states and communities, ranging from Flint, Michigan, to Mobile, Alabama, to Las Vegas.
Cities - Grants - Manhattan - Washington - Movement
Some cities also have mobilized on their own. But the big grants from Manhattan and Washington "infused this movement with resources," says Ilse Knecht of the Joyful Heart Foundation, a sexual assault victims' advocacy group that has spotlighted the backlog.
"There's a lot more to do," she said, but "this was the right thing to do."
The backlog built up over...
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