Jacksonville Sheriff's Office getting federal funding for rape kit testing backlog

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office will soon get the help it needs to solve more rape cases.

JSO is being awarded more than $600,000 to test its remaining untested rape kits.

“I think it’s a huge problem to have a backlog especially in rape cases,” said Jacksonville resident Ginger Manning.

According to JSO, in 2015 there were 1,726 untested rape kits in the jurisdiction.

JSO said about 70 percent of the backlog has now been tested and they hope a new Department of Justice grant will help them test the remaining kits.

“Do whatever forensic work they needed to do. I’m 100 percent for it,” Manning said.

The federal grant will help pay for additional training and a renovation of the property and evidence room. It also provides for overtime by detectives, analysts and others working on the backlog of kits.

“Perform the DNA tests on the samples, the evidence that’s available and hopefully we’ll locate people connected to the crime,” said Action News Jax law and safety expert Dale Carson.

Monday night, Action News Jax spoke to Carson about how the backlog of untested rape kits affects prosecutors and those living in Jacksonville.

“The longer it takes for the prosecutor to bring a case to fruition, to have the evidence that they need to pursue, the longer the perpetrator is out there potentially harming other people,” Carson said.

“And if it’s a federal grant, that means that it’s not coming out of Jacksonville’s pocket and we need to use it for the good of the community,” Manning said.

Along with clearing the backlog, JSO plans to submit over 1,000 additional rape kits for testing over the two to three-year grant period.

Action News Jax received the following statement about the grant from from Chris Butler, JSO chief of investigations:

"This grant will complement the previous federal grant money for the sexual assault kit initiative, and enhances it by providing overtime for the detectives working these cases as well as the crime analysts. It also provides for overtime for the property and evidence tech as well. This grant provides for detectives’ investigative travel and additional training. One aspect of the grant includes a renovation to our property and evidence room including enhanced evidence tracking & storage. This grant will also provide a project manager, who basically will coordinate these enhancements."