Albuquerque’s rape kit backlog received national attention on Wednesday after NBC’s “Left Field” released a short online segment on the issue.
The camera pans across rows and rows of the city’s 4,000 untested rape kits stored by the Albuquerque Police Department before cutting to Mayor Tim Keller.
Keller discussed his past efforts to tackle the problem on a statewide level as state auditor and current initiatives as Albuquerque’s new mayor.
Keller signed an executive order in January that calls on APD and the Albuquerque Sexual Assault Evidence Response Team to create a plan for clearing the city’s backlog.
“This really is about priorities,” Keller states on camera. “If we put the same kind of effort that we did into building a new fountain downtown, we could have eliminated half the rape backlog.”
New Mexico has the highest number of untested rape kits per capita in the nation, Keller said as state auditor.
As auditor, Keller released an audit in December 2016 that uncovered more than 5,400 untested kits around the state.
“I cried a bunch of times in those (evidence) rooms,” Keller said of the experience.
Albuquerque Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair, who served as general counsel under then-auditor Keller, is also featured in the segment.
“For about 20 percent of the kits we found (during the audit), unfortunately, that it was sort of a symptom of not believing the victim. Words like, ‘witness didn’t cooperate, witness didn’t follow up,'” Nair said of the reasons some kits went untested. “Those things are really coded language for, ‘we didn’t want to test the kit because we didn’t believe the victim.'”
Keller has been critical of Albuquerque for not moving more quickly on its backlog after the audit was released, while the state stepped up to speed up processing.
Since Keller took office, around 300 of Albuquerque’s untested rape kits have been sent for testing.
The executive order stated the comprehensive plan is to be completed by March 15.