New laws set to run unprocessed rape kits

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Close to 8,000 - experts said that's the number of rape kits that are currently unprocessed in the Oklahoma criminal justice system. Tuesday, three new bills were officially signed into law that will speed up processing and possibly help police catch even more dangerous criminals.

"It’s a major accomplishment, and I'm so grateful to be a part of it," said Oklahoma Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd.

With the stroke of Governor Stitt's pen, new legislation is now in place to overhaul Oklahoma's backed up sexual assault investigation system.

Back in 2017, Governor Fallin mandated all outstanding rape kits be tested. Afterwards, an audit found there were approximately 7,700  untested kits in Oklahoma.

Andrea Fielding is the director of the OSBI Crime Lab in Edmond. She said, with funding from the new legislation, she will be able to hire more people to run the tests and better equipment to do it faster.

"That will allow us to process those kits in a lot less time than it currently takes us," Fielding said.

The overhaul has also uniformed the kit system. Before, there were three different kits used in Oklahoma; now, there will be one, used statewide.

"All nurses will be trained to the same standard on that kit," Fielding said.

Fielding also said there will be a new tracking system set up so victims can see where their kit is in the system at anytime online.

"It should offer some comfort to a victim to be able to look at it any time that he or she wants and know exactly what is going on with their kit."

Fielding said other states have seen big benefits from processing  backlogged kits.

"They find a large number of serial rapist that they are able to identify through the DNA work associated with these kits."

Also, thanks to a new law that took effect last November, anyone arrested for a felony in Oklahoma now has their DNA taken.

"We see a lot of hits to our sexual assault and to our homicide cases from individual that are entered into CODIS for a lot lesser crime."

Fielding said a new pilot program of the tracking system will be rolled out in the next few weeks with the permanent program set for January 1. She also told News 4 that it might take three to four years to catch up with all the unprocessed kits.

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