A few years ago, Houston found that it had a backlog of more than 6,600 untested "rape kits," the medical forensic evidence collected from alleged sexual-assault victims. Since 2013, the city has focused on clearing this archive of potential DNA evidence, and it has gotten some encouraging results.
As of February 2015, testing the kits had turned up 850 hits from the FBI's criminal forensic database, leading to charges against 29 individuals and six convictions. Police are still reviewing DNA matches to see if more charges are warranted. "Now that the testing of these kits is complete, we know that it's up to us to finish the job and to seek justice for these victims," Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson told The Associated Press.
While there's no definitive national count of untested rape kits, the numbers from places that do keep tabs can be startling. In Detroit, more than 11,000 kits sat untested until recently. In Memphis, Tennessee, it was upwards of 12,000.
Testing them isn't cheap, costing cities between $500 and $1,500 per kit, but it does seem to be effective at catching rapists. Initial testing in Memphis has led to more than 160 new investigations and 22 indictments. Clearing the 4,700-kit backlog in Cleveland has produced 170 new indictments so far.