It is easier in 2019 to get away with murder than it was in 1969, according to the Murder Accountability Project. I know, that’s a strange thought, we’ve discovered the identity of the Golden State Killer via DNA from 40 years ago and other things. There are three reasons why it is easier to get away with murder today than fifty years ago. 1. Investigations cost money and most police departments in the US are incredibly underfunded. 2. Our society today is less likely to cooperate with police than they were in 1969. And finally, 3. police jurisdictions are even more fractionated than they were and all efforts to create a centralized database of murder victims and missing persons has met with resistance.
We’ll start with underfunded police departments. While the cost of things have continued to rise, including the costs of investigating crimes, most police departments are working with budgets similar to what they had in the 1980s and 1990s. And here’s something that might surprise you, most police departments must pay private labs to do tests, they don’t have their own labs for crime scene techs to work in, despite what shows like CSI would have you believe. Not only do cities not have the money to pay labs to run tests on crime scene evidence, but the departments themselves are usually very short staffed, because they don’t have the money to keep good officers and don’t have the money to fill vacated positions. The problem will get worse, not better, in the near future. I know when my hometown has a budget shortfall (which happens every year), the police department budget is one of the first to go on the chopping block. I looked into several other cities in both Missouri and the US as a whole and found that they too, slash the budgets of the police department when money gets tight. Obviously, police departments need to return to the days of fundraisers.
We’re going to skip to number three from the above list. The UK, Canada, France, Germany, and even Russia have centralized databases accessible by all law enforcement agents in their country. These databases are victim databases, every murder victim identified or not, goes into these databases. It includes all the information about the victims, including the manner in which they were killed and if there were suspects. These databases make it easier to find patterns of murder. This is incredibly important when you realize that the FBI has been wrong for the last fifty years. The FBI has always insisted that only 1% of all murders are Stranger Murders. The Murder Accountability Project has discovered this is probably very wrong. In studying rape cases, they found that nearly 40% of all rapes were repeat offenders (as opposed to the 5% the FBI estimated). The non-profit has identified something like 500 murder clusters (a murder cluster is a group of victims all killed in a similar way and have other variables in common). If each cluster, does represent a serial killer, then stranger murders, would in fact occur at a rate of about 30%. The US is supposed to have one of these centralized databases. However, reporting to it by police departments is voluntary. Furthermore, the FBI and other Federal Government law enforcement are actually the least likely to upload their data to this database. Many complain the form they have to fill out is too cumbersome and time consuming. The Missing Persons’ Database in the US, NamUS was actually started by a non-profit, then taken over by the Department of Justice. However, reporting to NamUs is also voluntary.
The final point, our society has a problem. Sometime, in the 1990s, our culture changed. There has always been a code of silence among criminals, but in the 1990s, it expanded to everyone. The phrase “Snitches get stitches” entered normal use. And people who were not criminals, became criminals (it is actually illegal to withhold information about a crime from police), because even when they could identify a suspect, they often don’t for fear of retribution. Some of this is because police departments cannot afford to protect witnesses or move quickly to bring a suspect to trial and remove them from the streets. Meaning this problem is tied to the first problem to a great degree.
Essentially, despite all our advances, we have gone backwards when it comes to solving crime. Nearly half of all murders committed in the US each year go unsolved. And cold case divisions are rare, so if a murder isn’t solved almost immediately, it will probably never get solved unless common folk advocate for it, like in the case of the Golden State Killer.