It probably isn’t much consolation to the families who are dealing with the unsolved murder of a loved one, but city police told me before last night’s forum that Hartford’s homicide clearance rate is getting better. Markedly better.
In 2007, the clearance rate was 36 percent. In 2008, 39 percent. In 2009, 30 percent. And in 2010, 32 percent.
Then in the summer of 2011, the Hartford Shooting Task Force was established, and the clearance rate for that year rose to 41 percent. In 2012, it jumped to 61 percent.
The task force also boasts a cold case unit dedicated to unresolved homicide and shooting cases.
“As a new endeavor, the HSTF has a new, much larger cold case homicide concept built into [its] operation,” Police Chief James Rovella wrote in his spring/summer/fall initiative last year. “Again, major case detectives paired with police officers (state and local) lead by prosecutors, will delve into the city’s unsolved homicides. It’s a natural fit for both units to collaborate side by side to address violent offenders and as importantly, provide resolution to the families of those victims.”
The city, however, still has 226 unsolved homicides, some dating as far back as 1988. Many families are still suffering from a lack of closure.
At the forum Tuesday, organized by a group of local preachers, family members asked how they could get more updates on their loved ones’ unresolved cases, and if their child or sibling’s picture could be added to the state’s unsolved homicide playing cards. (Two years ago, the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice, the Department of Correction and law enforcement agencies created a deck of playing cards that feature unsolved homicides, missing persons and cases of unidentified remains from throughout the state. The cards were distributed to DOC inmates with the hope of generating tips.)
Police — including the head of major crimes and members of the shooting task force’s cold case unit — not only attended the forum but stayed after to speak with those families seeking answers. They encouraged them not to give up and to contact the department regularly.
If the forums continue, it could be another step in improving upon a familiar issue: a disconnect between police and the community.