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Hamilton County coroner stops processing rape kits for Cincinnati police

Solving crimes could be delayed, city manager says
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Posted at 3:25 PM, Jul 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-19 15:58:21-04

CINCINNATI – There could be “significant delays” in solving rape cases now that the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office has stopped processing rape kits for Cincinnati police, City Manager Harry Black said Wednesday.

The immediate impact is that 44 rape kits from April, May and June have not been tested and some might not be until late August.

In a July 6 memo, Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco notified police Chief Eliot Issac that a backlog of DNA cases at the county crime lab made it necessary to reduce the workload and she would immediately discontinue rape kit processing.

The county has delayed plans to build a new crime lab, which Sammarco has been lobbying for for several years. The current building on Eden Avenue is more than 45 years old and space is so limited that technicians often have to process one piece of evidence at a time, she previously told WCPO.

Sammarco’s office returned 74 untested rape kits from April, May and June to police after she discontinued processing. Police were forced to turn to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations lab, Black said in a Wednesday memo to Mayor John Cranley and city council. Police have been driving kits to the BCI lab in London, Ohio, near Columbus – roughly a 90-minute drive.

“For years the city has relied on the Hamilton County crime lab to perform this function so vital to solving rape cases,” Black‘s memo said. “Significant delays are expected as a result of this sudden and unexpected disruption.”

The BCI lab has limited Cincinnati police to 15 kits per week, so 44 kits from April, May and June have still not been delivered, Black said. Black estimated the rest will be delivered to BCI by Aug. 11.

BCI tests take approximately two weeks, Black said.

Sammarco also said she hoped to talk to police command staff to “review the DNA process” and reduce the number of items police collect at the scene and submit to the county lab.

Sammarco said she expected the county’s moratorium on rape kit testing to last through 2017 “at which time we will examine our backlog.”

Groundbreaking on the new crime lab is now expected later this year or early next year.