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San Diego Cold Cases

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San Diego, California Cold Cases

In San Diego, California, the numbers of people who have gone missing or been murdered since 1980 portray a bleak picture of unresolved crimes that continue to plague families and communities.

As of 2021, there are over a thousand missing and homicide cases in San Diego that have not been resolved, and some of these cases stretch back to the 1980s. Law enforcement organizations face a difficult burden in investigating these cases and delivering closure to the victims' loved ones.

This work is within the jurisdiction of the San Diego Police Department's Murder Unit. The team is made up of seasoned investigators who employ cutting-edge tools and methods to crack cases. Forensics, DNA testing, and witness interviews are just a few examples.

The clearance rate for homicides in San Diego has been falling for several years, despite the best efforts of the Homicide Unit. In San Diego, the homicide clearance rate dropped to 42% in 2019 from 53% in 2018. Meaning that less than 50% of 2019 homicides in San Diego were solved.

Even less cases involving missing people are resolved successfully. Around 35% of missing persons cases in San Diego are closed, as reported by the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Most incidents involving missing people in the city will never be solved because of this.

Many factors contribute to the intractable nature of cold cases. The absence of physical evidence, which is usually required to identify the culprit and link them to the murder scene, is a major obstacle. For fear of retribution, potential witnesses may be hesitant to come forward, making it harder for police to obtain information.

Famous cold cases in San Diego

The overwhelming number of cases is another obstacle. All homicides in San Diego, whether they occurred yesterday or fifty years ago, are the responsibility of the Homicide Unit. It might be difficult for detectives to give each case the time and attention it needs when they have so few resources at their disposal.

Yet, recent developments in forensic science and DNA technology have provided police with new ways to investigate and potentially solve cold cases. The murder of a young woman whose body was found in a field in San Diego in 1978 was one of numerous high-profile cases solved by the San Diego Police Department using similar technology in recent years.

Though difficult, the San Diego Police Department remains focused on solving cold cases so that victims' loved ones can finally rest in peace. The department's Murder Unit is dedicated to solving all homicides, thus they never stop seeking for new information and leads in cold cases.

Finally, the data on missing and murdered people who have gone unsolved in San Diego, California, since 1980 is disturbing. Many of these crimes remain unsolved, even though law enforcement has made great strides in employing technology to solve them. This leaves families and communities with unanswered questions and unresolved anguish. The San Diego Police Department and other law enforcement agencies must continue to place a high priority on solving cold cases so that victims can finally receive justice and their families can find peace.

Joseph Smedley
Joseph SmedleySuspicious Death, 2015
Asha Degree
Asha DegreeMissing, 2000

Consider this

More than 200,000 unsolved cases have gone cold since 1980, and murder clearance rates continue to drop. With equity for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other underserved victims not prioritized in the true crime community—together we can do better.

What is San Diego Police Department (SDPD)'s strategy for investigating unsolved cases?

The Murder Unit of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) is in charge of investigating all homicides and suspicious deaths that take place inside the municipal limits of San Diego. Expert detectives who care deeply about doing the right thing by victims and their families make up this squad.

The San Diego Police Department's Murder Unit has cutting-edge tools at its disposal. They can use cutting-edge investigation strategies like cellular triangulation and GPS tracking, in addition to traditional forensic methods like DNA and ballistics testing.

The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) not only has access to cutting-edge technology, but also collaborates closely with the local community to investigate and solve cold cases. They provide incentives for information leading to an arrest and conviction in a homicide case, and they urge anyone with knowledge on a homicide or suspicious death to come forward.

The SDPD collaborates with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to help solve cold cases by sharing data and resources. Via the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP), they are able to share data on murders and other violent crimes with other departments.

The San Diego Police Department has made it a priority to solve cold cases by routinely revisiting those that have been unresolved for a long time. They rank cases according to criteria like how likely it is that they will be solved, how devastating the crime was, and how it would affect the victim's loved ones.

The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) uses a combination of cutting-edge tools, public engagement, and collaboration with other agencies to solve cold cases. They are committed to solving cold cases in San Diego and providing justice to victims and their families.

What resources are available to help solve cold cases?

In San Diego, California, there are a number of resources available to investigate and potentially solve cold cases.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department maintains a Cold Case Unit that looks into cold cases of homicide. To get in touch with the section, dial (858) 974-2321.

The San Diego Police Department also has a Murder Unit that looks into murders, both recent and old. You may reach the division at (619) 531-2293.

Members of the public have a means to give anonymous tips about cold cases through the San Diego County Crime Stoppers program. You can contact their anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477 or use their website to report information.

The Missing and Unidentified People Unit of the California Department of Justice also keeps track of those who have gone missing or are otherwise unknown to authorities. The contact number for the section is (916) 210-3119.

Major cities surrounding San Diego, California

Los Angeles, California
Tijuana, Mexico
Long Beach, California
Anaheim, California
Santa Ana, California

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