This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The New Orleans City Council has announced new requirements that will allow the city to process its own sexual assault kits through DNA testing.

On Thursday, March 10, Councilmember Lesli D. Harris announced the council’s approval of Ordinance 33,527 that requires the NOPD crime lab to maintain accreditation for DNA testing and databasing.

Currently, the NOPD relies on the Louisiana state crime lab in Baton Rouge for DNA testing, which is backlogged with more than 2,500 cases.

The ordinance also requires NOPD test kits to be scanned with “probative value” — meaning the perpetrator’s identity is unknown.

NOPD is now also required to submit quarterly reports of new and backlogged rape kits.

The ordinance was sponsored by Councilmember Harris and Council President Helena Moreno.

Harris commented on the legislation, saying:

“Curbing violent crime has been a priority for me since day one on the campaign trail. After hours of hearings with local criminal justice organizations, we discovered the NOPD has an abysmal 9% solve rate for rape in the city. That is absolutely unacceptable, and the addition of local DNA testing is a critical step in the right direction. This ordinance ensures that we not only have DNA and other testing capabilities locally, but also that we are meeting the highest industry standards. I’m proud to have authored this legislation, and I’m grateful to have the support of the entire Council.”

Moreno also commented on the ordinance, stating:

“The Council will continue to take the lead on strategies to decrease violence and prosecute violent crime. We have been waiting for years for a local DNA lab. Now, we believe the City is finally ready to build out these capabilities, a measure we know can help solve violent crimes and increase trust in law enforcement. This legislation accelerates those opportunities as well as ensures long-term accountability.”

The council says that along with the DNA unit, NOPD must also maintain accreditation for its crime scene and firearms units. The accreditation reportedly requires extensive investments in staffing and equipment that can take up to five years.

Because of accreditation procedures, the new requirement will go into effect at the end of 2025.