Lower murder rate frees police to probe older cases
September 25, 1999
From Correspondent Anne McDermott
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- The homicide rate in the United States is falling, reaching levels not seen since 1969, according to the Justice Department.
The decrease has left some police departments with extra time on their hands. And they've used it to knock off some cases that had been sitting around the bureau for a while.
The woman once known as Kathleen Soliah -- a 1970s activist wanted in connection with a suspected bomb plot in Los Angeles -- might have remained free indefinitely if not for the lower murder rate.
With murders investigated by Los Angeles' South Bureau Homicide down from 400 cases 10 years ago to 159 last year, the cops dug a little deeper for Soliah, an alleged member of the group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in 1974.
It was one of the bureau's last cases. Not long after Soliah's arrest in June 1999, the bureau closed for lack of business.
When the bureau first opened 10 years ago, gang warfare raged across the city. Now, some attribute the slowing murder rate to gang peace pacts, while others point to more police on the streets and stricter laws.
Those investigators who have moved on from South Bureau Homicide still have work to do in other areas, as murder has not been stamped out.
Police in nearby San Bernardino, who have also been wrapping up some older cases, say resolution of those cases is good for the victims' families.
U.S. Department of Justice
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