Sex crime evidence continues to sit on shelves untested in Phoenix, months after the ABC15 Investigators reported its backlog had once again ballooned.
The Phoenix Police Department said it had 835 rape kits waiting to be tested as of July 31, up from the 771 untested it reported in May, showing no progress in clearing its backlog.
Its incredibly troubling, said Brooke Fulton with the AZ Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.
Fulton said the hundreds of untested kits send a message to survivors that what happened to them doesnt matter.
It says to me that were not taking it as seriously as we should be. And it says to me that were not prioritizing victims of violent crimes, said Fulton.
Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell called the growing backlog concerning back in May and shared similar concerns when ABC15 shared the updated numbers on Monday.
Its concerning. I wouldnt downplay it, Mitchell said in May of 2023. Thats really the bottom line is there is a risk of re-offense.
Phoenix police blamed staffing shortages and complications during the pandemic for the current backlog. Pre-pandemic the department said the backlog was much smaller, closer to 100 to 180 kits.
Whatever we need to do, we need to find the funds to get these kits tested, Fulton said. If these kits continue to just sit and collect dust and not get tested, more and more survivors are going to decide not to come forward.
Phoenix police declined ABC15s request for an on-camera interview, but a spokesperson said it is actively hiring more forensic scientists and has filled two of ten vacant positions since May.
The department also said it has developed a plan for each and every backlogged rape kit but has not responded to our request asking for those details.