Wilmington Police's cold case unit first opened in 2011.
At the time, it only had one full-time officer--paid for with federal grant money--and three volunteers.
Now, it has two investigators, one focused on murders and another focused on sexual assaults.
"Since 2011, we have re-investigated and reviewed 68 cases. Ten of those are currently active," said Cpt. Malcolm Stoddard, chief of the Criminal Investigations Division, which includes the Cold Case Unit.
Of those, Stoddard said five cases were closed with arrests and four are pending indictments.
"In fact, of the currently active ones, two are extremely close to indictment. We're waiting for DOJ to respond to us as to whether they believe those cases are strong enough for indictment," said Stoddard.
Stoddard briefed council members, generally, about the unit at a recent virtual Wilmington Public Safety Committee meeting. There, Councilwoman Shané Darby asked how cases are prioritized within the unit.
Stoddard said while that's hard to quantify he gave an example.
"You might have a case that breaks open because you have someone in prison, who's locked up let's say for a drug arrest or a robbery arrest...and they go into prison, and they want to reach out and help themselves, and they say: 'I have some information on a homicide.' So at that point, obviously, we follow-up with that subject. If we believe that information to be good and credible, we follow-up on it. And these cases just kind of develop," he said. "As cases develop and we feel like they're getting stronger and moving forward at a rapid pace, those are the cases that typically get prioritized."
But Stoddard said all cases are considered open.
"There's never a case that we get information or we get a new lead that's generated that is not followed up on," Stoddard assured council members.
Darby also questioned how the unit measures success.
"We measure success by an arrest. We want to close these cases with an arrest--that's our goal at the end of the day. Sometimes cases are closed, 'exceptional clearance.' That means essentially it's a successful disposition for the case, where it's actually closed, but it couldn't be closed arrest for a number of reasons," said Stoddard.
One of those reasons could be a person is deceased, but there was enough evidence against them to mark the case "exceptional clearance."
"I often talk about one day you're a shooter, the next day you're a victim, and that certainly comes about when we talk about in homicides in Wilmington and other cities," said Chief Robert Tracy.
Darby also asked whether a list of cold cases is publicly available.
Stoddard said many cases are physical files, and while some information is computerized, no full public list of cold cases exists. He said the unit aims to keep open lines of communications with victims' family members, noting the sensitivity of these cases. However, WPD has started a monthly cold case series that highlights cases in an effort to get new leads.
"We have a responsibility to the victim, to the victims' families, and also witnesses involved as far as information that's disseminated to the public," said Stoddard. "Not all family members want the cold cases put back out in the media because it opens up wounds...but we do want to let them know that they haven't been forgotten about."