Philly police launch website to help find suspects in unsolved murders
The new website, PhillyUnsolvedMurders.com, will allow people to submit information anonymously.
Philadelphia police have launched a website to help gather tips about unsolved murder cases.
“These tips can be 100% anonymous,” Deputy Police Commissioner Dennis Wilson said at a news conference Thursday announcing the site, PhillyUnsolvedMurders.com.
The website will allow tipsters to provide written details, photos, videos, recordings, or documents to help in the search for suspected killers, authorities said. It also will allow victims’ relatives to post information about their loved ones through an electronic consent form.
“The families of the victims are going to be a part of this website,” Wilson said. “They’re given an opportunity to submit photos and a message about their loved ones, a reflection.”
Acting Police Commissioner Christine M. Coulter, who attended the news conference at Police Headquarters, said she hoped the site would help give victims’ families closure and send a message to the families that their loved ones have not been forgotten.
“They get to tell the stories of their loved one that we wouldn’t know by the investigation,” Coulter said.
The website currently includes unsolved homicides from 2018 and 2019, and police said they will work to post previous years’ unsolved slayings.
Relatives of three homicide victims — Andrew Moss-Brown, Jonchristopher Savage, and Yasiel Castaneda — who were fatally shot earlier this year in separate unsolved cases, attended the news conference.
Moss-Brown, 27, was fatally wounded June 21 on the 3000 block of North Darien Street in North Philadelphia. “As far as we know, it was mistaken identity,” his father, Richard Brown, told reporters.
“This website, I think, is a very good idea,” Brown said. “Hopefully it will go around, it will help other people with closure. Someone might be walking down the street, might have some information. You don’t want to tell no one, you can come to the website, enter the information anonymously. Hopefully, we can get some of these people off the street who are committing these crimes.”
Savage, 34, was fatally shot in January at Bristol Street and Old York Road in Hunting Park. His wallet and cell phone were stolen during the robbery, according to his mother, Kimberly Robinson.
“What keeps me going is I know that he’s in heaven, but I need his killer caught,” Robinson said. “I forgive his killer.… But I need you to come to justice and pay for what you did.”
Castaneda, 28, was found dead April 12 in the kitchen area of a second-floor apartment on the 3900 block of North Percy Street in Hunting Park.
Tips to the site will be fielded by the department’s Real-Time Crime Center, then will be quickly sent to the Homicide Unit so they can be acted on promptly, Homicide Capt. Jason Smith said.
“Every homicide victim deserves justice,” said Smith.
Wilson said he came up with the idea for the website earlier this year after seeing something similar used by another police department. He said Sgt. John Ross then gathered a team that researched other police websites.
Ross said the Los Angeles Police Department and police agencies in Florida and Connecticut have similar sites.
As of Wednesday, 216 homicides had been reported in Philadelphia this year — a 5% increase from 206 homicides at the same point last year, and a 7% increase from 201 homicides in the same period in 2017, according to police statistics.
In terms of year-end totals, homicides in the city reached a high in 2007, the last year for which data are available on the police website.
For all of 2007, the city recorded 391 homicides. That number decreased in 2008 to 331, but the number has been on the rise since 2013, when 246 people were killed. Last year, 353 people were slain in the city, compared with 315 for 2017 and 277 in 2016.
The city offers a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in any homicide.