Roundtable: Untested Rape Kits, Zoo's Big Bank Account, Opioids In San Diego's Suburbs
They say their approaches smarter and more efficient. The San Diego Zoo has a subsidy from taxpayers and $500 million in the bank. It is the most expensive public sue in the country. The opioid in heroin epidemic has spread from downtown to the San Diego suburbs taking many by surprise. I yam Mark Saur. The KPBS Roundtable starts now. Welcome. Joining me at the roundtable today is Kelly Davis and Jeff McDonald. And Leo Castenada. And eye-opening state audit two years ago found that police in three California cities analyzed half of all rape kits and since then Oakland and Sacramento has changer policies and examined all kids gathered. Not San Diego though. And we start what a rape kit is. How is it used? This is a rape kit. It is evidence that a nurse collects from a sexual assault victim in the hospital and what they are doing is just coming the victims body for any kind of specimen. They are looking for anything that help build a DNA profile. They would use it to match? Are what they do is take the DNA profile and upload it to a database and in the case of unknown suspect that could be a way to find the perpetrator. And you noted that they have about 20 for hundred of these kids that they have not said for lab testing. Weippe? To upload a profile there are certain requirements and the most important which is you have to have reasonable belief that a crime occurred. So they say that in some of these kids that remain untested and investigators determined that there is not enough evidence that a crime occurred or maybe the victim recanted or it is not the most meaningful piece of evidence. There's another piece of evidence that has better DNA evidence on it. So why take the time to spend the money to test this kit when you have a T-shirt or something. What is the ballpark cost on testing? It is anywhere between $1000 or $1800. That a significant also. You are going to go ahead and get all the evidence but it is something -- departments elsewhere do find it useful after this audit we mentioned at the beginning. While the audit was in process Sacramento decided to start testing all sexual assault kits after the audit, Alameda County got a grant to start testing all kits. Both of them said they found it a good use of resources that they helped identified a perpetrator to prosecutions. The test -- who does them here and what information do they wind up with? The Police Department has her own crime lab so an investigator -- [ Indiscernible - multiple speakers ] it is their own crime lab. They will -- if an investor feels the kit is an important piece of evidence, they will make the decision to send it off. You mentioned Alameda, what happens -- you talk to the folks up there what did you learn about the kids they tested? They said -- I said can you definitely say that testing all kits was the right thing to do? They said we don't have data to compare how things were before they started testing to now. In terms of just basically extrapolating from what they learned and testing the backlog, they would say that testing all of the kids and uploading whenever possible into the databases certainly increases the number of crimes that we've solved. That is just a different philosophy. How many did they send for testing last year? -- It seems like that is some number each year about half kids get tested. In the cost that we were touching on a moment ago, a limited County got a federal grout to come -- grant to cover some? On Friday it was announced that both the county and the Sandeno Police Department had received grants to enhance their -- speed up the process of testing DNA evidence. It was not specifically aimed at sexual assault gets just all DNA evidence. I think the hope is that it will help them be able to expand. Are there any Police Department that are doing a better job in terms of testing [ Indiscernible - multiple speakers ] That data is not known because even though there is a statewide database it encourages law enforcement to report them to the state but it is not mandatory. It is really hard to find out -- I could've gone probably jurisdiction by jurisdiction. That information is not readily available. You just don't know. It could be a repeat offender. It doesn't pencil out? That is an argument. You do have these repeat offenders -- it could be that the case here is a little shaky. This person has committed rapes and other states and was an unknown perpetrator. So by uploading that DNA evidence you are able to make the connections and help solve cases. If the crime did occur -- they're very confident that their approach is the best way. The 40% was combined category of uncooperative victims and victims who declined to prosecute. I do not know -- with a see that word it raises a huge red flag because it is so subjective. That is just the investigators impression a have a -- of how the victim was acting. In some victims they're traumatized and don't feel like they are being asked the right questions are being treated with respect. So they might be deemed uncooperative. Very difficult. Great story. We will move on. Thank you very much. The zoo has become to world-famous. It has also blossomed into a nonprofit with global reach and mission thanks in part to charging higher ticket prices. Just start with how much the zoo is. Their total assets are more than half $1 billion, but that includes equipment, infrastructure, all of the trucks and -- so maybe a little overstated. Their net assets are in $350 million range and their cash on hand is in the hundred $20 million range. By any measure they have a lot of resources out there. How many folks just for the record visit the zoo and the companions -- About Four and a half million every year. It has gone down a little bit. Certainly they have dropped hundreds of millions into the local economy. They are quick to point that out and they also -- they do a lot of not only preservation and conservation but they do research that benefits. That is a big argument. Visitors coming into the zoo. They learned about that and exhibits have a lot of background. Yes. Is there ballpark figure of how much the San Diego Zoo global generates? I did find a study that the couple of years old. It was based on a year and a half all data. That is also in direct. That means businesses that -- This to expenses this year obviously they are less. They are taking it a lot more than they spent. There are expenses -- they took and I think about $30 million. I am going by memory. More than they expended last year. That Allen's has been growing every year. I looked at the last five years and over the last five years, the have generated about one hundred 75 million more than they spent. Nonprofit leaders will tell you that's good. We want to be healthy and financial balderdash [ Indiscernible - multiple speakers ] they are supposedly the assets back into the mission and these are such big numbers. I asked him several times do they have any capital projects on the back burner? They kind of deferred on that question. This is not expensive. Their the highest in the country. $50 for an adult ticket and an extra six dollars if you want to see -- they define adult is 13 years or older. I learned that kids were free up to 1977. So for decades and decades and decades some kids got to enjoy the zoo just walk in anytime they wanted to. That changed in the 70s. It generates a for more money. Other zoos are free. LA and San Francisco I checked they are $20. Has a price got to the point where -- It depends who you ask. The membership has dropped in recent years by a few percentage points I think about 12,000. Their answer to that question to me was that they have to find the membership program and opened it up to people at a region and that they can support the zoo with the membership sort of a contribution to a nonprofit. You were telling us earlier that this membership thing has hit home with you. My husband and I used to be members and when I found out that I would be talking about Jeff story I said to have one of those membership letters that they send out. I notice the membership prices have gone up from what we were paying. I noticed the perks have gone way down. I am looking at this letter and they are no longer offering not. So breeding Jeff story. -- Reading Jeff story. Obviously a lot of folks are still coming. Let's talk about the substantial revenue they get from the special tax. That goes back many decades. Back in the depression era they were -- they answered the call to donate money to support the zoo. And they agreed to a two cent tax per one hundred dollar evaluation. It was cut back to a have set but now it's $1 million every month. That's not a huge portion of their overall revenue, but it is a significant amount of money for the city of San Diego to be diverting to a nonprofit. We talked before on the show the park where the zoo is or adjacent to went -- A lot of people think that the zoo can be expending those monies in ways that benefit the whole entire park rather than the exhibits Then they took a look at this tax money. They found there was no accounting for the money specifically and they sort of blamed the city rather than the zoo. After that audit team up in 2013 everybody agreed that there would be a new account that would designate just that money where it was spent. I asked repeatedly for evidence of where that was delineated in their financial documents disclose. There is a disclosure of the overall revenue but not the way it is spent. Are they going to fix that? Nobody told me they would fix that. Maybe they will or maybe they won't. That is something that was supposed to be fixed and was never -- If there was a report it was not generated. I asked the city editors and I asked the zoo and they pointed fingers at what another. Last question and he talk about lowering prices? No talk about lowering prices. I did affect question and the answer was that they needed the dollars and to deliver not just the services but to meet their obligation. They need to show the liability of their organization. Good stuff. We will look for more as we go along. We will move on addiction to opioids and heroine has claimed thousands of lives over 15 year. And the demographics of those of lives have been taken by prescription drugs has change. You reported that many more people in their 20s are dying of this substance abuse and Sandeno County. What are these numbers? We have seen -- we've seen spikes and young men in the suburbs or rural communities that were completely unexposed are very limited exposure to prescription pills or heroine. As you mentioned man, it mostly is men. It is not just opioids other painkilling type narcotics. I'm not and Tyler Reid -- entirely sure why. My guess is it has to do with a lot of people coming to these through injuries. So what are the figures about two thirds are men? I think it is three quarters are men. Huge proportions. Here's what he had to say about who's using these opioids. Is obviously become a serious problem and not something that is out of sight and out of mind. It is and everyone of our cities. We are all city suburban all classes. You mention injuries. How are some of the other ways? How do some people start down this path? I think the way that young people always experimented with drugs were maybe they would have used alcohol and marijuana in now they are trying Percocet and Vicodin and OxyContin and they are becoming addicted and build up a tolerance very quickly in a way that other drugs would not have. They're coming in -- it is not a new entry point or injuries -- a lot of them are just very addictive. You had a couple of stories and tales from your reporting about young men who would abuse these drugs. Tell us about Aaron Rubén. He played football and he started using Vicodin high school and incoming a college Hughes -- he started using OxyContin. He tried to get help and he ended up overdosing and having brain trauma. Now he cannot talk. Even when you don't have a death, there is these long-lasting negative impacts. His family is trying to make something positive out of this? EMac his mom and parents go to schools and educate people. Their goal is to give students the full knowledge of what they are getting into. So we talked about the epidemic moving out to the suburbs. Places like power way -- what are the numbers that we are seeing? The numbers are not always huge but we are seeing communities like Mesa. In emergency room and numbers they've gone up between 2006 and 2014. Think your story said they had about triple. For people in their 20s and 30s they have tripled during that time. Those are people who you might say they did not type they might be paralyzed. Speaking of -- another anti-dough is about Mark and not the stereotype of the skidrow drug abuse. This is an individual. Another high school grad played sports. He played baseball and he broke his ankle skateboarding and he started with alcohol and other drugs and dropped out and became addicted to prescription pills and spent 10 years of his life dealing with that addiction. So where are people getting this medication? One thing you just do not hear of often is pharmacies are doctors getting in trouble for overprescribing or for refilling prescriptions when it is clear that somebody no longer needs painkiller. It seems to be out there in great numbers. I think part of the problem is there is no clear definition of what is too much. They might break your ankle and then the doctor said take Vicodin and one Mac Doctor might say that is unnecessary. So a lot of them -- or you will have a parent who has cancer and who got a lot of prescriptions and in March's case he had a friend whose family member passed away and had a lot of medication and started taking it. Sometimes it is doctors they're just giving a ton of these prescriptions out. There was a federal crackdown and your story pointing out that it became harder to get some of these prescription drugs. There was a shift to. You use a be able to go online and get prescriptions from doctors in Florida and then -- they just went to heroine, it is much cheaper. April of OxyContin is $30. You can get a hit of black tar heroin for three dollars or for dollars. Obviously the effects of heroine is a word that is a ghastly thought that someone would get addicted to heroine. Absolutely but if you look at the actual chemicals. Take a heroine pill or OxyContin pill, it is the exact same thing. I wanted to get to the point on the opioid abuse number still seeing funding. And then a new concern about a synthetic. Now everyone is worried about fentanyl . It is superpowerful that you can get in a patch. The fear is that not only people are abusing that they are also smuggling the pills and drugs in from manufacturers in Asia. So as you say -- think it here and it pops up over there. This is an ongoing problem. There's no solution. You really have to address why these young people are getting addicted to these powerful drugs. Will look for more reporting. That does wrap up another set of stories at the Roundtable. I would like to say thank you to my guess. Reminder all the stories that we discussed today are available on our website KPBS.org. I'm Mark Saur. Thank you for joining us today on the Roundtable.
San Diego police's untested rape kits
Two years ago a state audit found that the San Diego, Oakland and Sacramento police departments had analyzed less than half of the rape kits in their possession.
Since then, both Oakland and Sacramento test all of their sexual assault kits. San Diego still does not. It currently has some 2,400 untested sexual assault kits.
The San Diego Police Department says it’s smarter and more efficient to do the investigative work first before sending the kit for DNA analysis.
Some advocacy organizations such as the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault disagree. They say all kits should be tested and the results uploaded to the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, even when the victim knows the assaulter. Advocates believe the analysis might lead to matches in cold cases.
Since 2014, the San Diego Police Department has booked 812 kits into evidence and sent 417 to the crime lab for analysis. The others were not sent for a variety of reasons: lack of jurisdiction, no evidence of a crime, the suspect's DNA was already on file, or victims were "uncooperative."
Testing is not required by California law. It costs about $1,500 to test each kit, but federal grants are available.
San Diego Zoo a very rich nonprofit
Last year was a good one for the San Diego Zoo.
In December, the zoo reported taking in $30 million more than it spent, and that it has assets of $545 million, including $122 million in savings.
In the last five years it has logged revenues of $176 million more than expenses.
In 1934, early in the Great Depression, San Diego voters approved a special property tax of 2 cents for every $100 in property valuation to maintain the zoo. The tax was lowered to a half-cent in 1981 and will bring in about $12 million to the zoo this year.
Yet admission prices ($50 for ages 12 and over, $40 for children 3 and up) at the San Diego Zoo are the most expensive among nonprofit zoos in the nation. In Washington, D.C., Chicago and Saint Louis, the big public zoos are free. It’s $20 for adults in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
An annual zoo membership costs $235 for a family of four, nearly double the cost in Columbus, Ohio and Omaha, Neb.
The zoo says both the big surplus and the ticket prices are necessary because of its mission of promoting conservation and saving endangered species. One of the zoo's biggest expenses is salaries, which amounted to $136.9 million in 2015.
According to a study conducted by the zoo and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, the San Diego Zoo generated $870 million in economic activity in the region in 2014.
Critics have suggested the zoo amend its business practices to ease the burden on the city and its citizens.
Opioid epidemic hits San Diego suburbs
Deaths from opioid drug overdoses have been common for many years in areas such as downtown San Diego and City Heights. Opiods include oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and codine.
But around 2007, opioid deaths began to be seen increasingly where they were once rare, in suburbs such as Poway and La Mesa, Oceanside and Clairemont, and mostly among young, white males.
In San Diego County in 2000, there was one death from opioids every 53 hours. Last year, there was a death every 33 hours. Emergency room visits for opioid abuse tripled between 2006 and 2014.
Area zip codes where these pain killers are prescribed in high numbers, however, are mostly rural. The communities of Jacumba, Palomar Mountain, Boulevard and Guatay have dispensed the equivalent of 440 pills prescribed by doctors for every resident.
When the federal government cracked down on opioids in 2008, making them harder to get, addicts adapted and started using heroin, which is much cheaper than painkillers. The federal Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 addressed the issue by diverting funds from other areas.
Now law enforcement is worried by something new, a cheap form of fentanyl from China. In 2015 seven people died in the county from fentanyl. In 2013, there were no deaths.