Why Solving Urban Homicides Can Be So Difficult

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Two hours after a killing on a busy Washington, D.C., street on a holiday afternoon, only two signs of murder remained: a small puddle of blood slowly dissolving in the rain and homicide detective Tony Patterson. The Washington Post says the veteran investigator stood under an awning near the spot where the victim had been shot; no one was around, and the police tape was fluttering to the ground.

The Post followed Patterson as he tried to find the killer of Larry Baskin, a 47-year-old ex-convict slain during the afternoon downpour on Independence Day. The trail has grown cold — but not for lack of effort. Patterson has questioned dozens of people and returned to the crime scene time and again, seeking any witness who could tie the case together. Each day that passes, the chances grow that the Baskin file will end up with the ghosts of other failed cases that Patterson has investigated over the years: starved for clues and stashed in a cardboard box under his desk. Leads come in dribs and drabs and can be maddeningly contradictory. Given these challenges, detectives say, it is no wonder that they close only about 60 percent of the city’s homicides. Lying is so common that one detective taped a poster to the wall of the unit’s windowless office that reads: “The Truth: It’s Never Too Late to Tell It.”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59574-2004Oct24.html

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