Las Vegas, Nevada, is hardly alone among American cities in its perennial problem with cold cases. For years, even decades, families and communities may be left wondering why authorities haven't been able to solve the crime or bring the offender to justice.
Several instances involving missing or murdered people have gone unsolved in Las Vegas since 1980. As of March 2023, 212 cold cases in Las Vegas dating back to 1980 have been reported to the National Missing and Unidentified People System (NamUs). There are 127 missing person cases and 85 murder cases among these reports.
The number of unsolved crimes in Las Vegas has risen gradually since the early 2000s, when it saw a sharp uptick. The number of homicides that went unsolved in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, increased from 73 in 2000 to 144 in 2004, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. A increasing population, an uptick in gang violence, and adjustments in police tactics were all blamed for this escalation.
The clearance rate for homicide cases in Las Vegas has been persistently lower than the national average, despite efforts to solve these cases. The FBI reports that in 2020, Las Vegas had a lower homicide clearance rate than the rest of the country at 61.2%. This is alarming news for law enforcement and the community as it indicates that over 40% of homicides in Las Vegas have not been solved.
It's possible that the absence of witnesses or physical evidence is making it so difficult to clear cases. Investigators often have few clues to follow, and if no new information or tools become available, a case can fall cold.
The transient population of Las Vegas is another possible contributor to the longevity of cold cases there. Many people visit and leave Las Vegas annually since it is a well-liked tourism hotspot. This can make it more challenging to locate potential witnesses and reconstruct what transpired.
Often times, there is no resolution in sight for cold cases in Las Vegas, leaving the relatives of the victims feeling disillusioned and forlorn. Several people have taken to social media and other online forums in an effort to get the word out about their loved ones' disappearances and hopefully find some answers. The Nevada Child Seekers and the Missing Persons Advocacy Network are just two of the many groups based in Las Vegas that work to aid the loved ones of missing people.