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D.C. Crime Lab Eliminates Rape Kit Backlog

The D.C. Department of Forensics Science has no longer has a backlog of rape kits.

D.C.’s DNA lab had lost its accreditation three years ago, outsourcing its forensic work to other agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, but city officials said the elimination of the rape kit backlog represent a turnaround for the lab.

“Unlike nearly every state in this country that has hundreds to thousands of sexual assault kits that haven’t been tested and are sitting in backlog, we have no backlog here,” said Jenifer Smith, the lab’s director. “Due to efforts of our DNA unit, [which] has reduced that backlog to zero.”

Smith said the lab has improved communication with police and prosecutors, its scientists are examining evidence and returning reports to investigators more quickly and is putting more emphasis on processing fingerprint and firearm forensics. New software will help improve the process even more, she said

The department’s protocol now is to process rape and sexual assault kits within 90 days. The lab now operates independently and has seen two clean audits by accrediting agencies.

“Our DNA lab, the lab that was suspended, is no longer lagging in the field of DNA analysis — our DNA lab is now leading the way,” Smith said.

For both the firearms and fingerprint labs, the target was to complete 50 percent of homicide and priority cases within 60 days, she said. But for four consecutive quarters, the lab has exceeded the goal and completed 83 percent of the high-priority cases within 60 days, and more than 95 percent of latent fingerprint cases were completed in 60 days.

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Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her to just tackle one. The recent Howard University graduate is thankful to have a job and enjoys the thrill she gets from chasing the story, meeting new people and adding new bits of obscure information to her knowledge base. Dubbed with the nickname “Fun Fact” by her friends, Tatyana seems to be full of seemingly “random and useless” facts. Meanwhile, the rising rents in D.C. have driven her to wonder about the length of the adverse possession statute of limitations (15 years?). Despite disliking public speaking, she remembers being scolded for talking in class or for holding up strangers in drawn-out conversations. Her need to understand the world and its various inhabitants frequently lands her in conversations on topics often deemed taboo: politics, religion and money. Tatyana avoided sports in high school she because the thought of a crowd watching her play freaked her out, but found herself studying Arabic, traveling to Egypt and eating a pigeon. She uses social media to scope out meaningful and interesting stories and has been calling attention to fake news on the Internet for years.

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