Hundreds of unsolved Dallas homicides are getting another look with the rebirth of a police cold-case squad this month, reports the Dallas Morning News. For six years, the city has been without a full-time unit of detectives to investigate such cases; restoration of the five-person squad signifies a shift in priorities for the department’s crimes against persons division. “We’ve had a lot of advances in technology, and we continue to have a lot of advances in technology, so there needs to be a continuous review,” said Assistant Chief Ron Waldrop, who oversees the department’s criminal-investigations bureau.
The cold-case squad of the 1990s solved dozens of cases, including 46 of 153 assigned from 1996 to 2000. By the beginning of the decade, the unit had mostly dissolved through attrition as more resources were devoted to patrol duty. Officials estimate that at least 700 homicides committed since 1990 have never been solved. Though the use of DNA evidence has grown increasingly common in solving old cases, the simple passage of time can often lead to a big break, investigators say. Witnesses once reluctant to talk for fear of retribution may overcome those fears, or they may have an ax to grind today that they didn’t years ago. Many big-city police departments cut back on cold-case squads as homicide tallies dropped in the late 1990s, said Thomas Petee of the Center for Government at Auburn University who has researched homicides. In recent years, things have changed. “Cold-case units have come into vogue in the last couple years,” he said.