As a matter of public safety and to ensure justice for victims, a priority of all law enforcement agencies – federal, state, and local – is to solve all cases, regardless of the amount of time that has passed.
Several law enforcement agencies, prosecutors' offices, and crime labs across the country have established innovative programs to review old cases. Often called "cold case units," these programs have enabled criminal justice officials to solve cases that have languished for years without suspects. Most frequently, DNA evidence has been the linchpin in solving these cases.
Experience has shown that cold case programs can solve a substantial number of violent crime cold cases, including homicides and sexual assaults. Advances in DNA technologies have substantially increased the successful DNA analysis of aged, degraded, limited, or otherwise compromised biological evidence. As a result, crime scene samples once thought to be unsuitable for testing may now yield DNA profiles. Additionally, samples that previously generated inconclusive DNA results may now be successfully analyzed.
Practitioners from across the criminal justice system speak to the impact of NIJ's Solving Cold Cases with DNA grant program.
Practitioners from across the criminal justice system speak to the importance of cold case units and the impact they can have.