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Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Cold Cases
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, like many other American cities, has its share of unsolved murder and disappearance cases that have gone cold. Families who have been waiting for answers in these situations for years, maybe decades, often feel like they will never get them. While every case is different, the statistics surrounding these types of crimes can be rather disturbing and provide light on the difficulties law enforcement agencies have when attempting to solve them.
More than a hundred disappearances and homicides in Harrisburg since 1980 have not been solved. Several of these cases have not been solved despite efforts by law enforcement and families to find answers despite technological and other breakthroughs.
Almost 80 cases involving missing people have been reported since 1980. Around half of these cases have been closed, with the other half being unresolved. Lack of evidence, missing people who vanished on their own own, and incidents in which the victim is presumed to have been taken out of state or country are just a few of the many possible explanations for why these crimes remain unsolved.
Since 1980, Harrisburg has had over 20 missing people cases and unsolved homicides. Many suspects and a lack of evidence or eyewitnesses can make these situations exceptionally challenging for law enforcement. Just about 35% of killings are ever solved, which is much lower than the clearance rate for missing person cases.
Harrisburg's police force is still working around the clock to crack these cases, numbers or no numbers. DNA evidence has played a major part in several recent cold case arrests thanks to developments in technology and forensic science. Social media and other online tools have also facilitated the widespread distribution of news and calls for assistance that were before impossible.
The lack of resources is a problem for law enforcement when looking into cold cases. Due to resource constraints, it may be impossible to conduct in-depth inquiries into each situation. When new information becomes available years after a case has been closed for lack of leads or evidence, it is often decided to reopen the investigation.
Famous cold cases in Harrisburg
The emotional toll these cases may take on loved ones and law enforcement is another obstacle. Many relatives of victims of disappearance or murder have waited for years for answers, and each day that passes just deepens their anguish. Each unsolved case represents a failure to provide justice to victims and their families, creating enormous pressure for law enforcement to find answers.
Notwithstanding these obstacles, cold cases have been solved with success in Harrisburg. Stephanie Gibson, a lady who went missing in 1990, is one such case. Her body wasn't discovered until 1992, and it wasn't until 2015 that additional DNA evidence led to the identification of her killer.
Forgotten cases like Stephanie's should never be forgotten, and neither should the need to provide law enforcement with the tools they require. If law enforcement is given greater resources and time, they will be more likely to solve these crimes and bring closure to the affected families.
Almost 100 people have gone missing or been murdered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania since 1980, and very few of them have been found. Law enforcement has numerous obstacles while attempting to solve these cases, but recent developments in technology and forensic science, as well as the increased availability of information thanks to the Internet, have opened up new avenues of inquiry. The pursuit of justice for victims and their families can continue if law enforcement is given the means to do it.
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 Harrisburg Police Department (HPD)'s strategy for investigating unsolved cases?
The Harrisburg Police Department use a number of techniques, such as:
When investigating cold cases, the Harrisburg Police Department looks over all of the information they have, including witness accounts, crime scene images, and forensic evidence. They might also re-test DNA evidence using cutting-edge lab equipment or apply cutting-edge analytic methods to previously analyzed data.
With modern technology: DNA and ballistics testing are just two examples of the new types of testing and analysis made possible by technological advancements. Forensic professionals collaborate with the Harrisburg Police Department to examine evidence and develop suspect profiles.
The Harrisburg Police Department shares information and resources with other law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pennsylvania State Police. By working together, we can expand our reach and gain access to more specialized tools.
Harrisburg's police department reaches out to the public via social media and other means to solicit information and tips from the general populace. The department's goal in disclosing information regarding old cases is to find new leads and uncover previously unknown details.
The Cold Case Unit of the Harrisburg Police Department is comprised of detectives who have received specialized training and have extensive expertise researching cold cases. These cops are in charge of revisiting and reexamining cold cases.
The Harrisburg Police Department frequently releases press releases and social media posts about cold cases. The department hopes that by maintaining public awareness of the cases, they will be able to attract new leads and information that would help bring closure to the investigations.
The Harrisburg Police Department's approach to solving cold cases is multifaceted and includes the use of both classic police work and cutting-edge forensics tools, as well as cross-agency cooperation and public engagement. The agency is investing time and energy into these cases in the name of fairness for the victims and their loved ones.
What resources are available to help solve cold cases?
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, there are a number of resources that can be used to investigate and potentially solve cold cases. To name a few examples of such materials:
The Pennsylvania State Police have a special team dedicated to reopening cold cases called the Criminal Investigative Assessment Unit. In order to analyze and follow up on leads, they employ professional investigators who work with local law enforcement.
At the Harrisburg Police Department, the "Cold Case Squad" looks into cold cases of murder and disappearance. In order to solve crimes, they collaborate with other law enforcement organizations and forensic specialists.
Rewards are available through the Capital Area Crime Stoppers program for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of criminals, even in cold cases.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation at the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office collaborates with local law enforcement to examine cold cases.
The Harrisburg and surrounding area's local law enforcement agencies can take advantage of the forensic analysis and evidence processing services offered by the Pennsylvania State Police Forensic Services Unit.
Databases containing DNA evidence: DNA samples taken at crime scenes are placed into national and state databases, where they can be used to identify suspects or establish connections between cases.
During an inquiry, relatives of victims can reach out to one of Harrisburg's many victim advocacy groups for assistance and resources.
It is worth noting that many of these services collaborate to solve cold cases. If you live in the Harrisburg area and have information regarding a cold case, you are encouraged to contact the police or one of the listed resources.
Major cities surrounding Harrisburg, Pennsylvania