Image: Areas of LA that have low and high arrest rates for homicides. Screengrab taken from this Washington Post study.
Last year, the Washington Post released a fascinating study that mapped out over 52,000 homicides over the past decade across 50 cities. It turns out that the overall arrest rate was only 49%, and in some areas the arrest rate was lower than 33%.
NPR reports that law enforcement officials and criminologists often estimate that at least 200,000 murders have gone unsolved since the 1960’s.
So what is the disconnect? Why do so many of these homicides go unsolved?
There are a few standard reasons given why these cases are not cleared off the books. To be completely honest, I don’t always buy into some of these.
- Prosecutors want / demand cases presented by homicide detectives to be “open-and-shut-cases” that will lead to plea bargains or speedy trials. That is a slap in the face to both detectives and prosecutors.
- DNA analysis can’t solve every case. True, but how would you know if you don’t even submit gathered evidence into the CODIS system?
- There is a disconnect and mistrust between the public and police. That is true given some of the recent bone-head moves by police officers even while they are recording themselves. Most people will come forward and cooperate if done so in a respectful fashion with anonymity a possibility.
- We are now living in a time with a “don’t be a snitch” mentality. A few gangsters will certainly play that card but the vast majority will take a mercenary route. Just offer a reward and they will line up at your doorstep.
- Prevention (instead of solving of crimes) is now the law enforcement strategy. Not hardly. Refer back to the Washington Post study and look at the low-arrest cities such as Baltimore and Chicago.
- The police are overworked, have too many cases, with no overtime. No argument but those reasons go out the window when it’s law enforcement officer or family member that is murdered. These cases are solved and solved quickly.
I will share with you the two main reasons I think many cases are never solved, based on almost 50 years as an investigator:
- Investigators with no experience and ego-driven personalities that will not bring in a seasoned homicide investigator from another department.
- A lack of skill and training in the art of interview and interrogation of suspects and witnesses.
On average our private investigation firm receives about 25-30 calls or emails per month from people inquiring about retaining our services to investigate unsolved murder cases. The people are generally split between frustrations of a six-month murder case going nowhere, or (on the other end of the spectrum) a cold case that has existed for ten years.
Over the past 40 years, we have been involved in numerous murder investigations on both sides of the courtroom. We have gathered evidence for criminal attorneys defending people accused of murder. We have also assisted family members and the law enforcement community in gathering new evidence in old cases.
If you are contemplating hiring a private investigator to help examine an unsolved murder case, please do so with caution and diligence. You will get only one chance to have someone approach the law enforcement community with a recent unsolved case or one that is cold and dusty sitting at the bottom of a filing cabinet. Hiring someone who doesn’t know how to handle approaching these officers will bury your case forever.
We are a very transparent agency, and that includes publishing our fees. Our experience tells us that “most” murder cases take at least two investigators a minimum of 40 hours of work to determine if there is any traction left in the case. Key interviews are done with two investigators for the safety and clarity of the potential evidence being gathered. We bill at $300/hour and therefore our minimum retainer is $25,000.
We tell all families not to retain us if they can not budget $50,000, as often the extra time is needed to establish finality in a variety of issues.
Please avail yourself to speak with one of our investigators at our toll-free number below. We will take the time necessary to guide you in the process and to answer all your questions. These are cases for seasoned investigators only.