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Washington, District of Columbia Cold Cases

There are several unsolved murder and disappearance cases in the nation's capital of Washington, D.C. Families and loved ones are left in limbo and anguish when these cases drag on for years or even decades without resolution. The following numbers give some idea of how common and complicated these cold cases are in the nation's capital.

About a thousand homicide investigations are still pending in the nation's capital, with some cases dating back to the 1970s, according to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). There are about 300 unsolved murders in the United States, and all but one of them have been "cold" for at least three years. Many disappearances and missing persons cases have also gone cold and have not been solved.

Around 5,000 homicides have been reported to the MPD since 1980, or about 150 per year on average. Nonetheless, homicide rates have been steadily declining over the past few years, with only slightly more than 100 murders expected to be reported in 2020. Although this decrease is cause for celebration, it is sobering to remember that many cold cases from years past still torment families and the community.

Because of the absence of tangible evidence and credible witnesses, investigating cold cases is notoriously difficult. Several of these crimes occurred in the '80s and '90s, when DNA testing and other modern forensic methods were not yet in use. The inability to locate and question eyewitnesses is compounded by the fact that some incidents may have included people who have passed away or relocated.

There were a lot of murders to investigate in the city, especially during the crack epidemic of the '80s and '90s. It has been challenging for law enforcement to track down and punish the individuals responsible for these murders because many of them were gang-related and involved several suspects.

The MPD has overcome obstacles and solved some cold cases throughout the city. For the past few years, the agency has established a special unit to examine and reexamine cold cases. In some instances, investigators have been able to make significant headway thanks to new leads or technological advancements, resulting in arrests and convictions.

Famous cold cases in Washington

Still, a lot of progress has been made. Several families are still searching for information concerning their loved ones after over 150 instances from the 1980s and 1990s remain unsolved as of 2021. The MPD has asked the public to come forward with any leads they may have on cold cases in an effort to remedy this problem. The agency has also made use of various online mediums to spread the word about cold cases in the hopes of finding fresh leads or witnesses.

The MPD isn't the only group helping the families of victims of disappearances and homicides, though; there are also various nonprofits doing this important work. A good example of a national group working to draw attention to this issue is the Black and Missing Foundation. In order to aid the MPD in their search for missing persons and to bring attention to cold cases, the organization has cooperated with law enforcement.

In sum, unsolved incidents of homicide and disappearance are still a major issue in the nation's capital. There are still many cold cases from the 1980s and 1990s, despite the MPD's and other groups' best efforts. The community as a whole feels the effects of the lack of resolution for the families and loved ones of the victims. Even if there has been some improvement in the last few years, more time and energy are still required to solve these cases and bring individuals who have suffered justice.

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 Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)'s strategy for investigating unsolved cases?

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in Washington, DC, uses a variety of techniques to delve deeper into cold cases and other situations that haven't been resolved.

One tactic is to revisit cold cases on a regular basis to see if any new leads or evidence have surfaced that might help in the investigation. This encompasses a wide range of forensic methods, from DNA testing to ballistics evaluations. The department also employs public outreach strategies, such as social media, in an effort to get people to come forward with information.

The MPD's Cold Case Team is comprised of veteran detectives who focus on reopening cold cases. The team collaborates extensively with other sections of the agency, as well as with federal and local law enforcement partners.

Rewards for information leading to the identification and capture of those responsible for unsolved crimes are another tactic. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is offering a $25,000 prize for information in any homicide investigation in the District of Columbia.

Also, the division collaborates closely with advocates and family members of victims to offer support and keep them apprised of investigation developments. The department also has a website where people can look for cold cases and provide information or tips.

Forensic science, cutting-edge technology, extensive community engagement, and dogged investigative work are just some of the methods the MPD employs in its pursuit of justice for crime victims and their loved ones.

What resources are available to help solve cold cases?

In Washington, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is in charge of looking into and ultimately solving cold cases. The department has a Cold Case Unit whose job it is to look into cold cases, such as murders or disappearances that haven't been solved for a long time. The team consists of seasoned investigators who analyze cases, utilize cutting-edge tools to collect data, and follow up on leads.

In addition to collaborating with other law enforcement and community groups, the MPD is actively involved in the investigation of cold cases. In addition, DC homicide and missing person cases that remain unresolved are documented on the department's website. Photos and descriptions of victims are posted on the site, along with details about the crimes and instructions for how the public can assist solve them by providing tips and information.

Major cities surrounding Washington, District of Columbia

Baltimore, Maryland
Arlington, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia
Silver Spring, Maryland
Bethesda, Maryland

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