Thousands of untested sexual assault evidence kits have piled up around the state, most of them in Albuquerque. One measure that’s been filed ahead of next week’s legislative session would pitch in some state funds to get them tested.
With this bill (SB 7), if the city of Albuquerque comes up with $2 million to test the kits, the state will add in another $1.2 million. The state’s budget is especially tight this year.
Sen. Cisco McSorley, a Democrat from Albuquerque, is carrying the legislation and said testing the kits is crucial for several reasons. "No. 1, the trauma to individual women," he said. "No. 2, the idea that men could be assaulting mostly women thinking that they may never be caught simply because the state of New Mexico doesn’t give it enough of a priority."
The kits contain DNA evidence collected by nurses, and they can be used to connect crimes all over the state and country. Catching a rapist early helps prevent a lot of assaults, according to advocates, because many people who commit this crime are serial offenders. "It’s a horrible, inexcusable situation to have a serious crime like this being unaddressed," McSorley said.
He added that previous pushes to get kits tested all over New Mexico have seen broad bipartisan support in both chambers. The session starts on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
The People, Power and Democracy project examines ethics, transparency and accountability in state government. It's a collaborative, multi-media partnership between KUNM-FM, New Mexico PBS, New Mexico In Depth and the New Mexico News Port. The project is funded by the Thornburg Foundation and by contributions from KUNM listeners.