TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Governor Rick Scott promised Monday to press lawmakers for funding to test 13,000 unprocessed rape kits that are sitting in the evidence files of law enforcement agencies across Florida.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released the results of a law enforcement survey early Monday that found there are 13,435 untested rape kits in the evidence files of 279 local law enforcement agencies. The FDLE says 9,484 of them should have been submitted for testing.
That FDLE survey follows months of controversy and discussion over how to handle the rape kit testing backlog in Florida, a problem that will take millions of dollars and years to resolve.
The survey itself costs $300,000 and is the precursor to legislative and executive action to resolve a problem estimated to cost somewhere between $9 million and $32 million.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has been a champion of processing those sexual assault kits and insisted Monday the cost is unimportant. “We realize to save a life, to help a rape victim, to lock up a monster you can’t put a dollar amount on that and nor are we in the state of Florida,” Bondi said. “If we can lock up one rapist, one serial rapist, which we’ve already, one, it makes it worth our while.”
Scott is asking for an additional $8.5 million in his budget this year to improve salaries and hire more technicians at the FDLE lab that tests rape kids. Scott was briefed on the FDLE survey results Monday morning by the FDLE commissioner. During a visit to Tampa Monday to promote his jobs program, the governor threw his support behind the rape kit testing initiative proposed by the FDLE.
“I’m going to work with the legislature to make sure it’s fully funded. We’re going to make sure we fully fund public safety,” Scott said. “FDLE’s going to do their job.”
Florida is also applying for a share of $45 million in federal grants the Obama Administration has set aside to help eliminate a nationwide backlog in rape kit testing. Bondi says she’s counting on that support.
“I have a great relationship with the Department of Justice,” Bondi said. “This is about saving lives and this isn’t a political issue. This is a victims’ rights issue and that’s one thing we all agree on.”
A concerned effort by New York City to process rape kits 15 years ago resulted in 200 cold case prosecutions involving offenders that were serving more than 900 years in prison, according to the FDLE report.
Recently in Florida, testing resulted in one prosecution involving a case in Polk County.