NYC district attorney allots $35M to clear DNA rape tests
NEW YORK — Evidence from up to 70,000 rape cases nationwide will get long-awaited DNA testing, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced Wednesday as he pledged as much as $35 million to help eliminate a backlog that has long troubled authorities, victims and lawmakers.
Experts estimate hundreds of thousands of rape kits — swabs and specimens gathered during examinations of victims — remain to be tested for genetic evidence that could identify, or eliminate, a suspect. Some kits have languished for decades.
Rape victims deserve to be shown that the extensive exams weren’t for nothing, Vance said.
“We want them to know that we, as a nation, are doing everything in our power to bring justice to them,” he said at a news conference with advocates including “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” star Mariska Hargitay.
The backlog is largely a factor of the $500-to-$1,000-per-kit cost of testing, but advocates feel it also signals that sex crimes haven’t always been enforcement priorities.
“To victims, it says, ‘You don’t matter. What happened to you doesn’t matter.’ And to criminals, it says, ‘What you did doesn’t matter,’ ” said Hargitay, whose Joyful Heart Foundation helps sex crime victims.
The money comes from the DA’s share of an $8.8 billion settlement with French bank BNP Paribas over processing of transactions for clients in blacklisted countries.
New York state communities will get priority in applying for the funding.