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May 13, 2016
The Houston Forensic Science Center’s Board of Directors discussed at an informational
session Friday that the corporation’s commitment to eliminate its rape kit backlog by
July 1 has forced the Forensic Biology Section to nearly triple production. Board
members emphasized the importance of providing timely DNA analysis on rape kits to
law enforcement both to assist in their investigation and to ensure victims get justice.
“This board cares deeply about the timeliness of sexual assault kit testing, which is why
we took steps last fall to address this,” Board chairwoman Nicole Casarez said. “But
this board is also concerned about the quality of the work … we don’t want to sacrifice
quality for speed.”
Mayor Sylvester Turner announced on April 6 that HFSC would eliminate the backlog
by July 1. At that time, HFSC had about 330 untested rape kits. More than 45 requests
had not been made automatically. In addition, since April new requests have been
received at a rate of about 100 per month. HFSC continues completing work on other
samples that had been in process when this project began. HFSC’s plan is to reach and
sustain a 30-day turnaround time by July.
To complete this task, HFSC has nearly tripled production in its DNA laboratory. The
board emphasized the quality of work must be maintained, and noted that increased
production also raises the risk for contamination and other mistakes.
In an effort to prevent such events, HFSC has embedded two members of its Quality
Division in the laboratory to closely monitor the project and to ensure quality does not
become a victim of quantity.
Following is information regarding HFSC’s progress through May 12:
 HFSC’s sexual assault section has issued about 217 reports.
 100 rape kits have been outsourced.
 Since April 6, HFSC has received about 166 new sexual assault requests.
 HFSC has installed four new instruments to increase production.
 HFSC has lifted overtime caps for most of the Forensic Biology Section. The staff
is working overtime during the week as well as on weekends.
 DNA extractions have been occurring five to six times a week rather than three
as had been the norm.
 Four new analysts, a scientific technical leader and a manager will join the staff
by June.
“We don’t try to hide things,” Casarez said, noting one of the Center’s missions is to be
transparent and to share all backlog information at public meetings.
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 eight forensic disciplines.
Ramit Plushnick-Masti
Public Information Officer


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