COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Controversy over untested rape kits have victims' rights groups calling the protocol of law enforcement agencies across the country into question.
Officials at the Columbus Police Department tell me they typically issue a rape kit to anyone reporting the crime, but since time is of the essence they say in some cases it's unnecessary to issue one.
A recent study from USA Today shows that the number of neglected rape kits across the country could possibly reach 100,000. People are now questioning how officers handle rape allegations, and if lack of rape kit usage could keep serial attackers out on the streets.
"It enhances our skills and it enhances our investigations," said Lt. Joyce Dent-Fitzpatrick with the Columbus Special Crimes unit.
Rape kits are used to extract DNA evidence from a person reporting the crime. Although they cost the city of Columbus more than $700 per kit, officials say they can be important evidence and are regularly issued.
"Once we get them, we take them to the crime lab within 10 days of receiving them, and the GBI crime lab analysis our rape kits," said Dent-Fitzpatrick.
Officials with the Columbus Special Crimes unit say a rape kit can find evidence days after a rape happens, even if a victim has showered.
They stress that a rape kit only indicates the presence or lack thereof of DNA traces, but alone does not necessarily prove a rape occurred.
Columbus investigators say DNA from rape kits are compared to national criminal databases when a suspect has been linked to a case.