Our speaker this month was Sgt. Chris Karakostas, who leads the Cold Cases unit in the MPD.
Sgt. Karakostas opened with a bit of background: he worked in the Second Precinct a while ago, in Property Crimes. He then moved downtown to work on Robbery, and worked on a case that he couldn’t stop thinking about. That persistence finally led him to Cold Case investigation.
Starting with a definition: no case is “cold” until the Homicide Unit stops working on it..
What re-opens a case to the Cold Cases unit? One thing that will bring a case out of the files is new technology that did not exist when evidence was gathered. If new tests can show something that wasn’t apparent before the case went “cold”, those tests should be run. Many of the cases C.C. investigates are 15 years old. A lot of technology has been invented in that time span so there is a lot of new evidence now available, waiting to be looked at. Whether or not it points to something is a different question.
Question: Is a lack of staff a problem? There is always plenty of work to do, but lab testing is what takes time. Most lab work is returned in a 3 to 6 month window. A 6-week return is really lucky.
How cases work in the current environment: Before 1990, all police work was done on paper. Cases were physically “handed off”– the paper folders files changed hands. Reports were often held in someone’s office in a grocery box, and sometimes the grocery boxes went home with an investigator who wanted to put in additional time as he could, or because he was afraid something might get lost in storage. Consequently, Sgt. Karakostas’ first task is to find the complete report.
Then, because officers think about cases, he will interview the officers who handled a case. That sometimes leads to recovery of memories, suggestions, or notes. Witnesses think about those cases too, and when they can be located, Sgt. Karakostas will interview them again.
All Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reports must be retrieved and reviewed so that Cold Cases knows how evidence was tested. Destructive testing used to be the norm, but newer technology requires samples even microscopic in size, so is less destructive. It’s still not possible to test “everything”: think of all the places DNA could be found on a jacket.
Pre-computer record keeping was disjointed: Property Evidence kept a master inventory but Downtown didn’t have a copy. [Now it should be a shared file–EQ] There’s another new issue with current technology: keeping electronic access up to date. Like libraries and hospitals, police records must be periodically transferred to a new medium as access technology is upgraded.
What Cold Cases detectives look for: What doesn’t fit the picture? Sgt. Karakostas showed pictures of bloody messes, and noted that no lab can get usable data from that cross contamination, but then showed a picture of a single drop of blood on a cardboard box: no contamination = just one source and clear evidence. With luck, that one drop will put a suspect at the murder scene. That’s a promising step in finding the right person. There might be evidence that someone washed up in a sink; the sink trap will yield testable evidence.
Closing an old case, bringing closure to give people peace of mind is a satisfying event.
Looking at the numbers from the Second Precinct crime summary, year to date and comparison with 2016:
Part 1 crimes:
Reported Rape for 2017 is 12 (2 in 2016) and
Aggravated Assault is 24 (14 in 2016).
Robbery is down by 50% and we have had no homicide in the Second precinct this year. Total violent crime is up slightly, 13;95 %, at 49 (up from 43 in 2016)
Property crime is up by 8.97% especially auto theft which has almost doubled.
On the enforcement side Total Part I arrests are also up by 39%, but Part II arrests are down very slightly, (to 119 vs 121 in 2016) To February 13, 20 weapons were recovered, up from 6 in 2016 for the same period. The new “foot beat” program has started, with a leap of 360% this year, from 78 in 2016 to 359 this year. We’ll see in coming months how that works.
Courtwatch: Sarah Becker and Deb Russell were both reporting:
No updates: Cody Corbin, Bryan Holmes, Curtis Laroque, Robert Schroeder.
Removed: Osman Amin, Jerome Darkow, Michael Weston-Rose
Added to courtwatch:
Kenneth Nelson (Felony Drugs: 5th Degree possession, of Schedule 4 naracotics and cocaine. He has had 3 other contacts in the 2nd Precinct and a long conviction history including motor vehicle theft, 3rd degree burglary and felony terroristic threats)
Jason Enrico: Felony check forgery (stole checks from a roommate and cashed them) and 5th Degree possession of heroin at 300 Broadway NE traffic stop. He has had 1 previous arrest for narcotics, convicted of receiving stolen property.
Paula Heille: Felony 5th degree possession of meth in the SAE n’hood, 4 open driving offenses. Previous convictions Fel 5th degree possession, MDS check forgery, Fel Burglary aid/abet.
Ismail Mahad: Arising for disorderly conduct at Pizza Hut in Dinkytown, also traffic stop at 1700 University, used a false name, small amount of mj. He has been arrested 5 times in 2nd Pct in one year: traffic, marijuana, false name.
Old Business: January minutes were accepted. The treasurer was absent. Emilie put in another call for old timers who might remember how our December dinner was supported. Larry suggested Bill Lloyd as a source.
No new business.