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Arkansas crime lab slashes turnaround time on sexual assault kits

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(The Center Square) – The Arkansas State Crime Lab has whittled down the wait time for sexual assault kit reports from eight months to 90 days, state lawmakers were told Friday.

Untested sexual assault kits received national attention in 2009 when more than 11,000 were found in Detroit, according to a video on the state crime lab’s website. New York City reported 42,000 untested kits in April 2017.

Arkansas lawmakers passed a bill in 2015 requiring the state crime lab to inventory its kits, and 1,300 were found. The state created a sexual assault kit tracking website that allows law enforcement, health care professionals and victims/survivors to track the kits.

The state crime lab currently has 130 unassigned kits, down from 600 last year, according to Jennifer Beaty-West, deputy director of scientific operations. She attributed the improved turn-around times to additional staffing provided by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“We plan to meet our goal of a 60-day turnaround time by 2025 before we move into the new building,” Dr. Theodore T. Brown told the Joint Budget Committee.

Officials have identified lab for a new crime lab, which is expected to be finished by 2026, according to Brown. The initial plans call for a 180,000-square-foot building.

Public safety officials testified on the last day of joint budget hearings. Other requests include a $34 million increase to the public school fund and a $65 million increase for Educational Freedom Accounts, according to the Arkansas House Public Information Office.

Lawmakers can begin filing bills on Monday ahead of the 2024 Fiscal Session that starts on April 10.

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