Greenville Co. Department of Public Safety closes in on sexual assault kit backlog for the first time in years

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GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – For the first time in years, the Greenville County Department of Public Safety said they have less than 10 sexual assault kits sitting on their backlogs, waiting to be processed.

“We do a lot of cases, not just sexual assault kits, but we tend to get more than what we can work— or at least we have historically,” said DNA Analyst, Tim Nafziger.

Nafziger said that means there’s typically a backlog or a waiting time until researchers can work a case.

“A year ago, a little over a year was our backlog. In the last month, it was about an eight-month turnaround for those cases,” Nafziger said. “It will probably be down closer to six this month. It’s going down very quickly.”

Nafziger attributes the progress to having more hands-on deck.

“A few years ago we learned that SLED and the state legislature were working on a sexual assault kit tracking bill,” said Nafziger. “Anticipating the increase in sexual assault kits, we were able to get two new positions, which brought us from four people to six people. Now our backlog has dropped down to six months.”

He added though that even with the help, DNA analysis is a lengthy process.

“As far as the science of doing a kit, it does take a lot of time. There’s a lot of chemical reactions, a lot of processes that we have to go through, so it’s a very time-consuming process. Just in the science of it, but also in the review of it,” Nafziger explained. “We have to review each case to understand how we can work it and then on the back end, all of our reports are peer-reviewed by another analyst to ensure that it’s completely accurate before we release the report to the investigator.”

Nafziger said regardless, a quicker turnaround is crucial for investigations.

“Especially with sexual assault kits. Sometimes DNA is the only evidence of the crime. A lot of times there are no witnesses. Sometime’s there is not a good memory. But if we can get that DNA evidence we can identify the suspect and that’s the reason we want to test as many kits as we can,” said Nafziger.

He said they want to maximize the potential to provide answers to both victims and investigators as soon as possible.

Jessica Stowe, another DNA Analyst with the county, said having the capabilities to handle more volumes paired with the new tracking system will be able to give survivors closure, faster.

“What this means is that the victims are ultimately going to be able to anonymously log in and see where their sexual assault kit is in the process, be at the hospital, be at the agency, be it here at the laboratory,” Stowe said. “Has it been finished? These are answers that victims can log in and get quickly.”

Sheriff Hobart Lewis with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office said he agrees.

“I certainly think it helps in the process of bringing some type of closure,” Lewis said. “Obviously, that happens in the end when somebody is convicted and they get sentenced and those things.

He said it’s reminding those involved that they deserve answers and it makes the process more transparent.

“The most important thing is that we don’t forget about the victims and this gives them another way to check on where their case is,” said Lewis.

All entities must fully participate in the tracking system no later than June of 2022.

According to SLED, their new forensic lab is scheduled to be finished by the first quarter of 2022.

SLED’s spokesman, Tommy Crosby provided a statement to 7NEWS that said “This will allow for increased laboratory space and enhanced efficiencies, including additional DNA Analysts and Serologist positions which will increase the number of sexual assault kits and other violent crime cases that can be completed each year.”

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