Cold Case Squads Going by Way of the Dinosaur?
Disturbing Trend for Cold Case Squads
By: Joseph L. Giacalone
According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report only 65% of the nearly 13,000 homicides that occurred in 2010 were cleared. That leaves almost 4,700 homicides still open in 2010 alone. At that rate there could be a couple of hundred thousand homicides still open since the FBI began tracking data in the 1930s. Remember, these figures don't include the missing people that are now assumed to be dead.
Cold cases are the hardest cases to solve. If they were that easy, they would have been closed already. However, these long term investigations eat up valuable time and money. Often cold case investigations require detectives to take trips all around the country trying to track down witnesses or submit evidence for DNA testing in a system that is always behind. Departments are closing down their cold case units and reassigning detectives to more active cases. Cold case units play a vital role between the department and the public. Where will families be without them?
Are there any solutions to this problem? I can think of two.
1) Departments can hire retired investigators at a lower pay scale without benefits to work on the cases. This way there is no training required and because they are not sworn officers anymore, they cannot be pulled for traffic details, parades and the like.
2) Ask for volunteers, preferably former members of the department who would like to donate some time and effort to these cases. Volunteers are great for the departments because there is no payroll involved. However, there are other intangibles at stake, namely the confidentiality of department information. This volunteer program would not be without cost. There will still be screening costs, training and transportation costs.
If your department has recently shuttered it's cold case squad, I strongly encourage you to write your local politicians. Ask them to seek the funds that will allow police departments to keep this vital squad working on old cases.
I would like to hear ideas, comments or solutions that you might have.
Salem Oregon's successful use of volunteers.