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May 25, 2016
The Houston Forensic Science Center has made progress in both eliminating a backlog
of about 375 untested rape kits and achieving a sustainable 30-day turnaround time for
sexual assault kits by July 1. Already, HFSC has issued 329 sexual assault case reports
and outsourced 99 cases, for a total of 428 completed, effectively eliminating the backlog
of untested rape kits.
Now, HFSC is turning its attention to achieving the second goal: a sustainable 30-day
turnaround time by July 1.
To achieve these goals, staff in the Forensic Biology Section have been working
overtime. Instrumentation has been purchased and validated to help triple production
in the DNA laboratory. Faced with the potential for greater contamination due to
increased production, HFSC’s Quality Division is closely monitoring the project. Six
new staff members, including a manager, a scientific technical lead and four analysts,
will all be onboard by mid-June, helping HFSC sustain a 30-day turnaround time once
the goal is achieved.
On April 6, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced HFSC would eliminate its backlog and
achieve a sustainable 30-day turnaround time by July 1.
“We believe we can achieve the 30-day turnaround goal by July 1; however, it is going
to be difficult,” said Daniel Garner, HFSC’s CEO and president. “Rape kit requests have
been higher than average since we started the project, and other events, such as the loss
of work hours as a consequence of the Tax Day flood, have made this project even more
To achieve a sustainable, 30-day turnaround time by July 1, about 370 more sexual
assault cases need to be completed, including 225 cases that have been submitted to the
lab since April 1. Normally, the average number of monthly sexual assault requests is
about 70.
Finally, HFSC intended to have six DNA instruments online and in production by early
May. However, one instrument arrived broken from the manufacturer and other
instruments required unforeseen repairs, which set back production.
Despite these setbacks, HFSC’s Forensic Biology Section is determined to fulfill its
commitment and is further increasing production to make up for lost time.
HFSC is a local government corporation that provides forensic services to the City of
Houston and other local agencies. HFSC is overseen by a Board of Directors appointed
by the Mayor of Houston and confirmed by the Houston City Council. Its management
structure is designed to be responsive to a 2009 recommendation by the National
Academy of Sciences that called for crime laboratories to be independent of law
enforcement and prosecutorial branches of government.
HFSC currently operates in nine forensic disciplines.
Ramit Plushnick-Masti
Public Information Officer


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