- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Metropolitan Police Department is trying to close hundreds of unsolved homicides by using the Internet to post the cases, including some from as far back as the 1960s.

The cases are under the “Crime Solvers/Unsolved Homicides” link on the department’s Web site, www.mpdc.dc.gov. The victims are separated by year, and clicking on each name brings up a standardized flier that includes details about the crime, the name and phone number of the investigating detective, a notice about the department’s $25,000 reward and the victim’s photo.

“It really helps to be able to put a name to a face,” said Capt. C.V. Morris, head of the department’s Violent Crimes Branch.

The database is not comprehensive because more than 4,000 homicides have gone unsolved over roughly the past 40 years. The majority of cases posted occurred in the past few years, and the oldest comes from 1962.

“It came out as the result of people wanting information,” Capt. Morris said. “We started doing it for new cases, and then some people wanted to go back and put in some older cases.”

Officials said they will continue to add cases, in part, because of the growing interest.

“We’re doing as much as we can to put up as many [cases] as we can,” said Kaylin Junge, the department’s director of Internet communications. Ms. Junge works with detectives to assemble the information, format it and post it.

“The detectives generally come to me and try to profile cases they think the public can help them with,” she said.

Ms. Junge said the Web page has been around for about a year and a half. Officials made a push to add as much information as they could in advance of a series of “next-of-kin meetings” this year. Families of homicide victims were invited to the meetings to provide detectives with new information or inquire about the status of their cases.

Capt. Morris said the database also allows the families to pursue their own new leads.

“It’s important because it gives them an opportunity to help us out,” he said. “People are able to print out their own fliers, which we encourage them to do.”

He said people with information about a crime sometimes feel more comfortable talking to family members than they do talking to police.

The Web page includes a “frequently asked questions” page, which describes police procedures for handling and reviewing cases that are unsolved after three years and transferred to the “cold case” unit.

“Most of these families just do not know what happens after three years,” said Detective James Trainum, who runs the department’s cold-case unit.

He said many people think detectives continue to work cases actively after they have gone cold, but most are reviewed only when new information is discovered or at the request of the victim’s family. He said most requests for review come either at the anniversary of the crime or around Christmas.

Detective Trainum said most of the calls he gets are from families upset because their loved ones are not included in the database. He said he will add any victim whose family members can provide police with a photograph.

“It’s just another way of getting information about these cases out there,” he said. “I tell family members, ‘We get very few calls. But if we don’t put it in there, we won’t get any calls.’ ”

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