While crime rates are dropping all over the country, some of the most dangerous criminals in the Bay Area are still on our streets.
Tampa, Fla. - While crime rates are dropping all over the country, some of the most dangerous criminals in the Bay Area are still on our streets.
That's because the I-Team has discovered that unsolved gun murders in the region are on the rise, meaning some local agencies are falling below the national averages when it comes to closing cases.
We have also learned that local departments are confronting the problem by going to new links to help keep our families safe.
"It gets, hard, but we're still a family and we'll always be together," said Alice Rutledge on a recent visit to her grandson's grave.
Her grandson John Singleton's young face smiles from a photo on his tombstone.
"There's not a day goes by when I don't think about him, because I love him," said John's mother Cheryl Singleton.
Last week marked the anniversary of John Singleton's murder.
"It's been two years and no word," said Rutledge.
The 17-year-old boy was attending a friend's birthday party with 60 other people at Unique Island Grill when a gun fight broke out.
Singleton, who had never been arrested, was an innocent bystander.
"Wrong place at the wrong time. Many people were there, a lot of witnesses," said Capt. David Goodman.
But nobody at the party ever came forward to identify the trigger man.
"Somebody knows something. Somebody knows something. They just won't tell," said Rutledge.
The reluctance of witnesses to come forward has led to plenty of unsolved murders in the Bay Area.
The I-Team has identified 50 unsolved gun murders from 2011 and 2012.
Most of their killers likely remain on the loose.
"The cycle does not break. It continues and it continues," said Lydia Rutledge, John Singleton's aunt.
"Shootings, very often, especially those related to gang violence, are a cycle of retribution," said Capt. Goodman.
The I-Team has discovered in Tampa that 39 percent of gun murders in 2011 and 2012 are still open investigations.
In Manatee County, white boards in the homicide division are filling up with names of new victims.
"If it's a drug related homicide, there may not be an obvious connection between the victim and the suspect," said Lt. Darin Bankert.
A countywide homicide task force was formed this year in Manatee County, with seven detectives assigned full-time to investigation unsolved murders.
At the sheriff's office, 52 percent of gun homicides during the same time period remain unsolved. In Bradenton, it's more than 80 percent. In Palmetto, it's 100 percent.
"The fact that we have more detectives now, more resources, they're able to spend more time focusing on individual cases," said Bankert, who expects to soon solve many of the open cases.
In Tampa, more resources are being dedicated to the forensic crime lab, which now has 17 full time technicians.
Now, TPD tests every gun involved in a crime for DNA evidence and fingerprints before having them sent to the state crime lab for tracing and ballistics testing.
All that information is then entered into a database.
"So where people won't speak, when people won't come forward, the evidence will," said TPD Crime Technician Diana Ayra.
"The technology is there. It is real and we're taking full advantage of it," said Goodman.
Family members of victims hope the new tools and resources will help bring justice as well as peace.
"You get these people off the streets so that they don't hurt somebody else," said Lydia Rutledge.
The Tampa Police Department is sponsoring a workshop next week involving 15 local, state and federal agencies.
They will learn more about establishing a single method of collecting and entering information into the gun database to help determine if the weapons were used in other crimes.
If you have a tip on John Singleton's murder or any unsolved case, you can call Crimestoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS.
The following agencies had less than 17 percent unsolved gun homicides 2011 - 2012:
Hillsborough Co. Sheriff's Office [9%] and Pasco Co. Sheriff's Office [7%]
The following agencies reported zero unsolved gun homicides 2011 - 2012:
Polk Co. Sheriff's Office, Sarasota Co. Sheriff's Office, Hernando Co. Sheriff's Office