Hundreds of sex crime cases in limbo due to backlog at Phoenix crime lab

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – There’s a major backlog of sex crime evidence within the Phoenix Police Department. Arizona’s Family has learned there are hundreds of rape kits that haven’t been tested yet.

Christa Lindsay is the director of engagement with the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. She said the current delay in investigating sex assault cases sends a bad message to crime victims.

“It absolutely sends a message to survivors that they are not getting justice, not being heard, not being believed, which is the same message they have received from the get-go,” said Lindsay. As of July 31st, there were 835 sex assault kits untested, according to the Phoenix Police Department.

What is causing the backlog?

Phoenix Police, like many other law enforcement agencies around the country, is still experiencing a major staff shortage that’s impacting its ability to investigate sex crimes. The department says it is actively hiring forensic scientists. Two of the ten vacancies have been filled, with another five positions to be filled by next month.

Lindsay says the staffing shortage is having a lasting impact on the community. “This (staffing shortage) also means that rapists and people causing harm are still not being held accountable, and are out in community causing more harm,” said Lindsay.

Close to 300 of the backlogged rape kits have reportedly been submitted to an outside lab, but the other 500-plus kits are sitting somewhere, waiting to be opened. Phoenix PD declined to comment on camera, but a spokesperson said plans are in place to address the backlog within the next six months.

Lindsay doesn’t think sex assault survivors should have to wait so long for justice.

“It just adds to the trauma it adds a layer adds on top of just trying to heal and move on with your life after a really traumatic and difficult experience,” said Lindsay. “They are participating in the criminal justice system. They deserve to know what the next steps are, and they deserve to have closure.”

Governor Katie Hobbs released this statement:

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