OSBI labs sees dramatic increase in rape kits after new law goes into effect

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Officials with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation say they need more biologists after a dramatic increase in the number of rape kits coming into their labs.

Authorities say the dramatic spike is due to a new law that went into effect last year.

That new law requires that all sexual assault kits are submitted to a forensic lab

With thousands of old rape test kits still needing to be processed, it’s keeping the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation extremely busy.

“We’ve seen approximately 100% increase in our monthly submittals. This time last year, we would see about 40 cases submitted a month. I think this last month I think we had 88 cases submitted,” OSBI Division Director for the Criminalistics Services Division Andrea Fielding said.

To help with the workload, five biologists were hired earlier this year, but officials say they need double that number to keep up with the case load.

“Those folks are now in training. It typically takes about two to three years to be fully trained to be a DNA analyst,” Fielding said.

Andrea Fielding is on the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Task Force, which was created in 2017, that found 7,700 Oklahoma rape kits sitting on shelves that were never tested.

“Historically, police agencies would collect those kits and it would go into an evidence vault at their department and sometimes maybe get missed, not get submitted for testing and those cases would just fall through the cracks,” Fielding said.

The task force made recommendations, hoping to clear the backlog and find justice for victims.

But OSBI officials say they need more resources because the state funding ended in June, and next year’s budget has been reduced by $1.2 million.

“We can stop additional crime if we can get the funding to handle the cases as they come in the door,” Fielding said.

The state was awarded a three-year, $2.4 million grant late last year that will help fund the backlog of sexual assault kits by sending around 1,000 to outside labs to be processed.

OSBI officials say it costs between $700 to $1,200 to outsource testing per kit depending on the lab.

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