GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As the Grand Rapids Police Department faces staffing challenges, the department is looking to retired detectives to help crack some of the city’s unsolved murder cases.
In 2022, there were 23 homicides in Grand Rapids. Police Chief Eric Winstrom said the investigations kept GRPD’s detectives very busy.
“There really is urgency in collecting evidence as quickly as you can when a homicide happens, so you don’t lose evidence, which has a tendency to go away or is harder to locate over time,” Winstrom said.
The number of new investigations, combined with detectives retiring, has put a pinch on the department.
“The challenge for us was how do we make sure we’re not letting go of those older cases, making sure we connect with the loved ones of individuals who have been murdered, let them know we have not forgotten these cases,” Winstrom said.
Part of the solution may come from the past. This week, a homicide detective who called it a career about five years ago returned to assist GRPD.
“He’s going to start looking at a lot of cases that he’s looked at the first time. He’s already got that connection with the family members. He already has in his head the knowledge about that case,” Winstrom said.
Winstrom said he hopes that detective won’t be the only one. GRPD is planning to invite back more retired homicide detectives to take another look at unsolved cases.
“To see if there’s evidence that needs to be resubmitted, if there’s interviews which need to be re-conducted,” Winstrom said. “There’s the cases that have concrete things that we can do right away that we’re going to be moving on, and then being that liaison to the family because the families want to talk.”
Over the decades, Winstrom said, there could be hundreds of families searching for more answers.
“I never look at a murder case and say, ‘Oh, we’re never going to solve that,'” Winstrom said. “The opportunity is always there for something to break.”
He hopes that bringing in additional help can provide the justice that many desperately seek.
“I want to see some murders charged. I want to see some family members be able to go to court and see the individual who killed their loved one be put in prison,” Winstrom said.
According to Winstrom, GRPD currently has around a 75% homicide clearance rate, which is higher than the national clearance rate of around 55%.
He also said that there’s no statute of limitations for murder and GRPD keeps murder files forever, so there is the potential to look at cases from a long time ago.