5,000 Rape Kits Untested in New Mexico; Seattle Streetcar Line Nears Finish Line

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Also: Arizona sheriffs unimpressed with new ‘border-security strike force’ and Florida lawmakers battle to raise lagging wages for state workers.

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading today…

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico: Someone should have spoke up earlier. The Associated Press reports that at least 5,000 “rape kits” are sitting untested in the state’s crime labs and that it would take years and millions of dollars to work through them to collect DNA. Roughly 31 law enforcement agencies around the state haven’t even reported the number of untested kits piled up in their labs. The cost of processing each kit can run as high as $4,000. “This is important, expensive science,” said Gregory Fouratt, state public safety secretary, at a legislative hearing on Monday. “We do not have the scientific workspace to keep up with this state’s current forensic needs.” [The AP via The Albuquerque Journal]  

SEATTLE, Washington: City residents are invited to tour the First Hill line’s bright and shiny electric streetcars that transportation managers say will soon start running along what they expect to be a busy 2.5 mile route that will connect light rail stations and pass through a stretch of the city that includes university campuses, medical center buildings and high-rise apartments, reports The Seattle Times. The streetcar vehicles are making practice runs now, roughly two years behind schedule. Voters approved the $134 million sales-tax-funded project in 2008. The vehicles can retract their overhead power poles and run on batteries alone. Breaking over downhill stretches of the route re-powers the batteries. [The Seattle Times]

PHOENIX, Arizona: Gov. Doug Ducey is touting his special “border-security strike force” to battle drug and human trafficking, which makes for good headlines, but state sheriffs are unimpressed, reports The Arizona Republic. The Sheriffs Association wrote an open letter last week saying that their offices have been underfunded for years, swept of resources by state budget planners. The Department of Public Safety is suffering with 100 unfilled positions. Radio systems are outdated. The Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center is understaffed and needs upgrades. The crime lab is swamped. Ducey countered that the strike force bureau has only been in operation since September and has already seized more heroin at the border than DPS seized in all of 2014. [The Arizona Republic]

TALLAHASSEE, Florida: Florida state workers will not be getting a raise if Gov. Rick Scott has his way, reports The Tampa Bay Times. It would be their eighth year without a pay boost. Outraged lawmakers examining the governor’s new budget proposal, Republicans and Democrats, howled at the inclusion of $1 billion in tax cuts and a $250 million fund to lure businesses to the state. Democrats decried the plan as heavy on corporate welfare. They pointed out that Florida firefighters make $27,000 a year and have been traveling to western states in shifts to battle wildfires in order to supplement their incomes. [The Tampa Bay Times]

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana: Pelican State residents are three days into a month-long “tax amnesty” period in which they can pay overdue taxes with reduced penalties, reports The Times-Picayune. Officials say this is the last chance for at least a decade. [The Times Picayune]

John Tomasic is a journalist who lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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