Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are making a direct appeal to the public to try to solve open homicide cases, crafting professional-looking YouTube videos that they hope will motivate people with information to contact investigators.
It’s a new twist on an old tactic. For years, police have asked family members of homicide victims to speak with the media about their loved ones. The TV news reports and newspaper articles generated might lead to a break in a case.
But police say the two-minute YouTube videos, produced using an outside video production company, gives them control over where and when the information is displayed.
“Your time is often limited,” CMPD Deputy Chief Doug Gallant said of the media. “There’s only so much you can do to be able to highlight these cases.”
The department has produced two videos so far, Gallant said. One video is about Kevin Rodas, the 7-year-old who was killed last year while playing in a yard during a birthday party. He was one of five people fatally shot over Labor Day weekend. No one has been arrested in the case. The video features pictures of Kevin’s face slowly moving across the screen and images of candles on his grave marker.
“We have people in our city that know what’s going on but are not talking to the police, for whatever the case may be,” Det. Todd Burkard says on camera. “And that’s the most shameful thing about this whole case.”
The other video features the family of Carl Grier, a 67-year-old father and retired handyman who was shot and killed in January.
In the video, Grier’s adult son and daughter stand at the spot where he was killed.
“When I’m by myself I think about it the most, because I can’t just pick up the phone and call my father anymore,” Lakeisha Grier says on camera.
The videos take a few hours to shoot. Some of the interviews take place inside CMPD headquarters. Rob Tufano, the director of CMPD’s public affairs department and a former television news reporter, does the voice-overs.
Gallant says the department plans to produce more videos — about one a month.
In addition to generating leads, Gallant said the videos also reinforce that police haven’t forgotten about old cases.
“We like to get the crime solved as quickly as possible,” Gallant said. “We like to talk to witnesses when it’s as fresh in their mind as possible. But as time passes, our detectives are still working on these cases.
“Maybe (witnesses) had a reason for not coming forward that doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe something jogs their memory.”
The Kevin Rodas video has been viewed nearly 700 times. The video on Carl Grier’s killing has more than 100 views.