Photo: Bebeto Matthews/AP

In 2015, Manhattan Attorney General Cy Vance Jr. gave $38 million in forfeiture money to police departments around the country to test the backlog of rape kits. Since then, 64 rapists have been convicted thanks to evidence from the kits, according to the New York Times.

The money was distributed widely to police departments around the country, including those in Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Miami, Memphis, Austin, and Kansas City. So far, it has paid for 55,000 kits to be tested.

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The new evidence has resulted in 165 prosecutions and 64 new convictions. Some of the DNA evidence tied together unsolved cases that revealed serial rapists and murderers.

From the Times:

In Memphis, the police exhumed the body of Robert Brasher, a hardened criminal from Missouri who had killed himself to avoid capture, and tied him to eight sexual assaults in three states, including three that ended in murder. The key to solving those cases was an untested rape kit from a 14-year-old girl attacked in 1997 that was found to match Mr. Brasher’s DNA profile. [...]

Another grant to the Las Vegas police helped solve the rape and murder of Nadia Iverson, whose body was found in May 1997 at a construction site. Her rape kit was not tested until March 2016. Last year, Arthur Sewall, 51, a former police officer, was arrested and charged with her murder after the authorities said his DNA was found to match her attacker’s.

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And though the money went to cities around the country, the testing has helped New Yorkers.

“We have solved New York cases with kits tested from Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania and Virginia,” Vance told the Times.

The problem of untested kits is far from solved. Despite this effort at excavating the backlog, advocates say that there are probably still 250,000 untested kits in the U.S.

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“I believe fundamentally there was a gender bias at issue,” Vance said of the backlog at a press conference. “A crime mostly involving women was simply not viewed as important to solve.”

It’s worth noting that Vance decided not to prosecute movie producer Harvey Weinstein for sexual assault in 2015, the same year he allocated to money to rape kit testing. In 2011, he also declined to prosecute a French politician for sexual assault.

In the #metoo era, it’s harder to look like a hero just for doing the bare minimum to address a problem that should have been fixed ages ago.

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The number of reported rapes in New York is rising. In an effort to respond, the NYPD has added 55 officers to the division that investigates sexual assault, and named a woman as its chief.

“They believe they’re doing everything they can,” Vance told the Times.