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Santa Clara County clears sexual assault, rape kit backlog

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Official seal of Santa Clara County, Calif.

Santa Clara County has cleared its backlog of untested sexual assault and rape forensic evidence kits.

Terry Harman, an assistant district attorney who oversees the sexual assault unit that helps process the forensic evidence from sexual assault or rape cases known as a SART kit, briefed the county’s Board of Supervisors on the issue during its regular Tuesday meeting in San Jose.

In June 2018, the county’s Board of Supervisors approved funding called for by Supervisor Cindy Chavez to process more than 200 rape kits backlogged at the county’s crime lab, kits that have all now been tested and cleared.

Harman said the county used to process a kit within 94 days. And while state law calls for a 120-day turnaround for the kit, Harman said Santa Clara County, as of December, has been processing kits in 16 days.

Followed by a short applause from those in the board chambers, Chavez said Tuesday:

“That’s amazing.”

Harman told the board that in cases of rape or sexual assault that are “priority 1,” which includes a rapist or sexual assaulter who is unknown to the victim, current policy calls for a test of that rape kit within seven days.

Harman said:

“For all other kits, our policy calls for them to be tested within 30 days.”

“That policy has been very helpful at establishing very clear-cut guidelines for both law enforcement and [the] crime lab, and also letting the public know and letting victims of crime know what is going to happen with their SART kit.”

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