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.