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Why won't Charlotte fund 'cold' rape investigations? 

What is more important than catching serial rapists in Charlotte? Apparently, a whole lot of things.

While the city effortlessly managed to come up with more than $40 million to pay for a trolley that it ran for less than a decade and then discarded, hundreds of rape cases sat gathering dust in a file room down at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. While the city blew another $12 million on its latest toy, an Uptown streetcar, the rape cases still sat, many of them awaiting DNA testing that could finally bring monsters to justice after decades.

The boxes still sit, waiting for a series of grants to come through.

A very wise editor once advised me not to listen to what people said, but to watch what they did. Watch what the city of Charlotte does with these cases, and you can't help but conclude that justice for rape victims — and protecting the public from their attackers — is not a priority.

For nearly a decade, I've watched as CMPD detectives painstakingly applied for grants to fund testing of old DNA with new techniques that can pin down rapists. (The grants also pay for the investigation of cold cases.) I've written about it over and over again. But still hundreds of the cases sit waiting years for the next grant to come because there's supposedly not enough money to test them all now.

With the grants they've received, the cold case rape squad has worked wonders. They recently busted Gilbert McNair, a serial rapist they tied to six rape cases from the Myers Park area more than 20 years ago, WSOC-TV reported. He was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison.

"We think we have about 200 cases still waiting to be reopened," Sgt. Darrell Price told WSOC-TV. The grant applications he wrote to the National Institute of Justice to keep the cold case unit running and expand it run out in June, the station reported. If they aren't renewed, the unit goes kaput.

If detectives get the grant, they can add a DNA analyst to work on the cases and hire a retired prosecutor to work exclusively on cold cases, WSOC-TV reports. The news literally makes me gnash my teeth. We could have done this five years ago, the last time I wrote about the old cases, if City Council had kicked in the funding.

Instead, hundreds of cases continue to gather dust, waiting on grant money.

Meanwhile, police officers did traffic control for Bobcats arena events at no charge to team owners who profited and the city paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to basketball tournament organizers to bribe them to come to town.

Like I said, we've got money for everything under the sun but rape victims.

During the presidential campaign, there was national outrage when people found out that until 2000, while Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, rape victims there had to pay for their own rape kit testing or have the bill covered by insurance. (That was policy here in North Carolina, too, until 2009.)

Heck, at least they got tested in Wasilla. Here kits as recent as 10 years old sit untested with the latest DNA technology.

I can't imagine what it must be like for cold case rape victims, looking over their shoulders and wondering if a man who once brutalized them is watching and waiting to hurt them again. Did he stalk them the first time? Can he find them now? I can't imagine the rage they must have at knowing that he is likely out there, living his life, enjoying things, getting away with it. And no doubt at least some of these rapists have racked up more victims while we wait for grants.

Analyzing these cases shouldn't be a distant priority, the kind of thing you hold a bake sale to fund. Screw waiting for another grant. Find out what it would cost to process all these cases and fund it now. If we can find the funds for trolleys, streetcars and kickbacks for CIAA basketball tournament honchos, we can scrounge up a few measly hundred thousand dollars for this.

Follow Tara on Twitter @TaraServatius and Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaraServatiusOnline.

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