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Amended rape kit bill gets pushback in Nevada Legislature

Updated May 3, 2017 - 8:31 pm

CARSON CITY — An amendment to a rape kit tracking bill drew opposition in the Nevada Legislature on Wednesday, less than two weeks after it unanimously passed the Senate.

Senate Bill 169 would require each Nevada law enforcement agency to track the status of rape kits, which are used to gather DNA evidence and information from the crimes. The bill also would enable victims to use the internet to track the status of the kit.

The initial language of the bill called for the creation of a statewide tracking system, but bill sponsor Sen. Becky Harris told the Assembly Judiciary Committee the change was needed to avoid jeopardizing a federal grant the to the state.

“This bill would allow us to get caught up and to move forward in a productive way and make sure we’re testing these kits they way they need to be,” said Harris, R-Las Vegas.

The Department of Justice awarded more than $500,000 to the attorney general’s office to develop a rape kit tracking system.

The state has a backlog of about 8,000 rape kits, some of them three decades old. Federal grants have helped state agencies work through the backlog and make improvements to Nevada’s system.

Chuck Callaway, with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said it would be better to let the attorney general’s office find a solution and not mandate that individual law enforcement agencies have their own tracking systems.

He also said a universal tracking system is more sensible than a mandate for each agency. “Let’s do it right,” he said. “Let’s set up one.”

Victims advocates, including a representative of the Rape Crisis Center in Las Vegas, also opposed the bill, saying a state system would allow for better investigation of complex cases that might involve multiple jurisdictions.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee did not take action Wednesday on the bill. The bill passed the Senate unanimously on April 24.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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