Hours after 7-year-old Kevin Rodas was shot and killed on Labor Day weekend, police made an impassioned plea to anyone who might have information on the senseless death of a child at a birthday party: Please come forward.
“If you know something about this crime and you don’t say something, we ask that you clear your conscience and let us know what you know so there will be no more senseless loss of life,” a tired Deputy Chief Jeff Estes said the day after Kevin was shot.
“If nothing else will compel you other than a 7-year-old boy being killed at a birthday party, I’m not for sure what will.”
Doug Gallant, another deputy chief, again asked the public to come forward 10 days later, this time standing in front of the home where Kevin was shot.
Police say that ultimately 15 tips came in, but no one has been arrested in Kevin’s killing or any of the other homicides that happened on Labor Day weekend. All five remain unsolved.
The increasing number of unsolved killings is a trend that is hidden in a greater narrative of increasing homicides.
Last year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police recorded 42 homicides, the lowest total since they started keeping uniform records in the 1970s. So far this year, detectives have investigated 48 killings, with nearly three months to go in 2015.
Eighteen of this year’s killings remain open. That puts the homicide clearance rate at about 63 percent. That’s lower than the national average, which hovers around 65 percent, and drastically lower than last year’s clearance rate, which was 89 percent.
To be fair, homicide solve rates are usually calculated at the end of the year, when the department has had more time to analyze evidence and chase down leads. But police have taken pride in years past in how quickly they were able to make arrests.
At the end of each year, I talk to the police chief about trends in killings as part of story on the year’s homicides. Former Chief Rodney Monroe, who headed the department when it had that record low 42 homicides, said solving killings quickly sends a message to the community – and to murderers – that people who kill other people will be arrested swiftly and pay for their crimes.
This year, though, police have said they are frustrated at the small number of tips that have come in.
“Unfortunately, we still need help,” Homicide Capt. Cecil Brisbon told the Observer last month. “It’s been a very slow process.”
Police encourage anyone with information on any of this year’s killings to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600. Tipsters can remain anonymous and are eligible for rewards up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest.
People with information can also call 704-432-TIPS (8477) to speak with a homicide detective on duty. For more details, or to download the Crime Stoppers mobile app, go to http://charlottecrimestoppers.com.