Photo via Flickr.com (Jasmine Cormier).
In many of the gang-infested areas of this country, it's often the rule rather than the rarity that community members decline to talk to the police when a murder occurs.
Community members often withhold information, fearing retaliation because of a lack of trust in the police. Even though they know their lack of cooperation will give way to more crimes and a deteriorating quality of life in their neighborhoods, many are people still reluctant to become witnesses or provide useful information.
Forensic evidence is only useful when you have a suspect and when evidence is collected. So what should officers and agencies do? Should they close out the case and add it to the many unsolved and cold-case files or should they put into action other case-solving strategies?
These violence-ridden communities still deserve commitment from their local police. And crimes left unsolved have a way of multiplying and spreading to other communities, even the quiet ones.
Often, the more lawless a place becomes, the more dangerous it is for the police officers who work in those communities. This is a well-documented fact. Criminals become more brazen and dangerous when left unchecked.
There are other considerations. The lack of trust by community members will be exploited by radical community activists with their own agenda. Law-abiding citizens will feel mistrust and be unsupportive of the police, especially when the newspapers and politicians blame the police for not solving crimes and allowing the gang members to conduct business as usual. The morale of the local police agency will gradually diminish when the hard work of the officers are viewed, by them, as futile and fruitless.
Even with the occasional views of futility by the police officers working in high-crime jurisdictions, coupled with the blatant lack of cooperation by the community, the right strategies, true commitment, hard work, and good old fashioned police work can be the ticket to solving homicides, violent crimes, and other types of crimes.
In my experience, most police officers want to make the commitment and work hard to fight crime but the strategies must come from above. First-line supervisors and command staff must set the stage by leading officers into the implementation of proactive strategies for the officers to follow. These strategies should be aggressive, innovative and focused while the hunt for the perpetrators must be relentless.