By Nicki Gitter
BU News Service
CAMBRIDGE — While the murder rate in Cambridge shows signs of decreasing, many homicides—almost one-third—remain unsolved, ongoing investigations.
Since 1990, the annual average number of homicides per 100,000 committed in Cambridge has decreased from five to two incidents per year, according to Cambridge Police Department’s BridgeStat.
During the period of 1990 to 2016, 53 homicide incidents occurred, resulting in 58 murders. 17 of the 53 incidents, 32 percent, remain ongoing investigations or unsolved cases.
Similar patterns of crime clearance issues have also occurred nationwide.
In 2015, only 46 percent of violent crime was cleared. Of those violent crimes, 61.5 percent of murders were cleared, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
In Massachusetts, the District Attorney’s office handles all aspects of a homicide investigation. They work in conjunction with local police departments to investigate and, eventually, clear the case.
The same goes for unsolved homicide cases in Cambridge.
Assistant district attorneys and state police detectives work together to review unsolved homicides. They mainly focus on unexplored witnesses and resources, along with incorporating new modes of scientific testing into the investigation.
Jeremy Warnick, director of communications and media relations for the CPD, said certain cases remain “cold” or unsolved because police haven’t received the help they need.
“Uncharged homicides are often times unresolved because of lack of cooperation from witnesses and/or those who may have information,” Warnick wrote in an email. “The sooner we have cooperation, the sooner we can resolve these and any other cases.”
In addition, the DA’s office attempts to engage surrounding communities in the investigation of certain cases. The Middlesex DA’s website often features “unsolved cases” along with a phone number people can use to relay tips or pertinent information.
Trend analysis from the past decade found on the CPD’s Crime Analysis Unit’s site, BridgeStat, shows that most homicides committed in Cambridge are results of domestic disputes and gang-related violence. The two most recent unsolved homicides in Cambridge occurred in 2016 and both involved gunshot wounds.
On July 25, 2016, 49-year-old Anthony Clay was shot outside of a housing complex at 140 Harvard St. directly across from Green Rose Heritage Park.
Marian T. Ryan, the Middlesex District Attorney, held a press conference shortly after the shooting. He said investigators did not believe the incident to be a random act of violence. Investigators asked community members to speak out if they witnessed something or knew someone who had, according to the Boston Globe.
Now, over a year later, the CPD and the DA’s office are still hoping to clear the Clay case and ones similar to it by looking for undiscovered connections and patterns of crime in the area.
“Our [CPD] Criminal Investigations Unit is always looking for opportunities to develop new sources of information and leverage that to resolve these cases,” wrote deputy superintendent Leonard DiPietro, the commanding officer of the CPD Criminal Investigations Unit, in an email.
“Anytime any information comes through our Crime Analysis Unit or our detectives, we look at it through the lens of these homicides to see if there are any potential connections,” DiPietro continued.