SEATTLE - The Seattle Police Department launched a new advertising campaign on buses and billboards Tuesday in hopes of generating tips about unsolved killings.
Eight of the 23 homicides in the city this year remain unsolved, and there are about 60 unsolved killings dating back to 2000. Detectives hope publicizing the cases will prompt people to come forward with information and help eradicate a "no-snitching" culture that has hindered some investigations, The Seattle Times reported (http://is.gd/lLR77V).
The ads, unveiled Tuesday, each feature the photos of three or four of the 18 victims killed in Seattle since the beginning of 2010. Above the photos is a simple question: "Who Killed Me?"
"I think the worst thing we could do is allow these cases to be forgotten," said Lt. Steve Wilske, who oversees the department's homicide and crime scene investigations units. "If somebody gets killed, if somebody gets murdered, you shouldn't forget about them."
Some of this year's killings have been random, including that of Nicole Westbrook, a 21-year-old culinary student who was walking home to her apartment in Pioneer Square in April when she was shot. Those cases can be harder to solve, and Westbrook's remains open.
"What's different this year is that we have a number of random victims or victims who were in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Detective Rolf Norton. "They were completely innocent in their actions.
"This year, we have people walking down the street or driving through an intersection catching random bullets."
Wilske hopes the campaign will generate the kinds of tips that will help his detectives arrest suspects and clear cases. Anonymous tips have some value, but witnesses willing to come forward and testify in court are more valuable because they can help win a conviction.
ClearChannel Outdoor is contributing billboard space worth about $60,000. Titan Outdoor, the company behind the ads that will run on Metro buses, donated approximately $11,000 worth of work. The Seattle Police Department spent $6,700 and the U.S. Department of Justice contributed $5,600.
Gazelle Williams is one of three community members on a police department committee that planned the campaign. She says she's still waiting for the gunman who killed her 22-year-old great-nephew, Desmond Jackson, to be caught. The Seattle Central Community College student was shot four times in the chest outside a nightclub in February.
"It's driving me crazy, the thought this person who killed Des is still walking around, going to parties and doing whatever he wants," she said.
Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com