The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Department of Corrections (DC), the Attorney General’s Office, and the Florida Association of Crime Stoppers again teamed up with Florida sheriffs and police chiefs to create a new deck of statewide cold case playing cards. The third edition features 52 of Florida’s unsolved homicide and missing person cases. Beginning today, the decks will be distributed to inmates in all 67 county jails and to supervised offenders reporting in through the state’s 156 probation offices. Each card features a photograph of the victim and factual information about the case.
“This is a creative and well-crafted approach to investigating some of Florida’s toughest cases,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. “I’m proud of the collaboration between law enforcement agencies to put this program in place. It’s worked before and we’re betting it will work again.”
There are approximately 65,000 inmates in the state’s county jails and 141,000 supervised offenders serving on state probation. By distributing the cold case playing cards to offenders, law enforcement will reach thousands of potential sources who may be able to provide critical information about an unsolved case. Printing for the third edition deck was funded through federal grant monies.
“We’ve already had two inmates come forward with information that solved crimes in response to the Cold Case Cards initiative and I anticipate some of our offenders on community supervision will do so as well. I applaud this joint effort among law enforcement agencies and pledge to help in any way we can to assist in solving these unsolved crimes,” said DC Secretary Walter McNeil.
“These cards have been immensely successful in generating tips and two cases have been solved, bringing closure to the victims’ families and friends,” said Attorney General Bill McCollum. “The Attorney General’s Office welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with our corrections and law enforcement partners, particularly on such a creative and important initiative.”
A toll-free number for Crime Stoppers is listed on each card and offenders in county jail facilities will be given access to a phone in order to call in information. As with all Crime Stoppers initiatives, no identifying information is obtained from the callers – they are free to remain anonymous.
“People are often fearful of providing information on criminal activity – especially in a prison environment,” said Florida Association of Crime Stoppers President Steve Rowland. “Crime Stoppers is privileged to use our existing anonymous call taking network in this valuable initiative. Our greatest hope is to continue to gather the missing information needed to bring closure to so many grieving families in Florida.”
“The issuing of the third edition of cold case playing cards is a testimony to the success of this program. Distributing these to the thousands of inmates within the jails and corrections facilities in our state exposes the cases to an audience of people most likely to have come in contact with these individuals,” said Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie Morris, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association. “This will provide an excellent source of information to help law enforcement solve crimes. The Florida Sheriffs Association is proud to be a part of supporting this effort.”
“The Florida Police Chiefs Association wholeheartedly supports this creative and innovative program that provides visual aids and factual information as a means to jog the memories of individuals that may have information vital to these cases,” said Port Orange Police Chief Gerald Monahan, President of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “It is the hope of our members that this program coupled with state-of-the-art technology that was not available at the time of many of these murders will lead to many more solved cases throughout Florida.”
The idea for cold case playing cards originated in 2005 with the Polk County Cold Case Assessment Team who developed a deck of unsolved cold cases from the local area and distributed them in the Polk County Jail. Within months, an inmate tip led to arrests in an unsolved murder. In July 2007, Florida developed two statewide decks of cards which were distributed to 93,000 inmates in 129 state prison facilities. Two murder cases were solved as a result of the statewide decks (James Foote and Ingrid Lugo) and tips from the cards continue to be received regularly. The first and second edition statewide decks were funded through the Crime Stoppers Trust Fund which is administered by the Attorney General.
Florida was the first to develop a deck of statewide cold case cards and distribute them in the state prison system. Since then, the concept has been replicated by law enforcement and correctional agencies across the country and internationally. At least 13 other local jurisdictions in Florida have developed local decks of cold case playing cards in conjunction with Crime Stoppers: Miami-Dade County, Jacksonville, Martin County, Escambia County, Palm Beach County, Lee County, Tampa Bay, Pinellas County, Manatee County, Leon County, Flagler County, Orange County and Polk County. Numerous states, including Texas, California, Washington, Illinois, Missouri and New York have implemented similar programs and are distributing their own cold case playing cards in local areas. Australia has also developed a playing card program based on the Florida model.
To learn more about the Cold Case Playing Cards initiative and to view cards from each of the three editions, please visit www.fdle.state.fl.us/OSI/unsolved. The public can purchase cards through Priority Marketing at www.prioritymarketing.com.