Approximately 40% of homicides in the US between 1980 to 2016 remain unsolved. Most of these cases grow cold and forgotten. How can a cold case be thawed and cracked?
Statistics from the Center for the Resolution of Unresolved Crime show that convictions have declined in the past decade. In 1965, 91% of murders were solved, but in 2014 this number was only 63%. The amount of cold cases continue to grow. Of 189 cold cases reopened by the Columbian Metropolitan Police Department, nearly a quarter ended in convictions.
Developments in technology is vital for helping cold cases get solved. DNA testing continues to improve, so evidence can be resubmitted, increasing the likelihood of a positive result. The FBI’s invention of the Next Generation Identification System is particularly helpful in solving kidnapping cases; the technology shows what the victim looked like then and what they may look like now.
This is arguably the most important factor. Over time, the attitudes of witnesses may change. Witnesses may remember something they didn’t remember when the case was active or people’s loyalties to a suspect may have changed. New witnesses account for resolving 63% of re-opened cold cases.
To solve a cold case, identifying the errors in this first investigation is useful. This could be incomplete investigating, such as looking at only 9/10 of the witnesses on a list, or ignoring other leads – this often happens when a suspect is established too early in the case.