OKLAHOMA CITY – Looking for DNA on abandoned vehicles may be the key to solving most of the state’s cold cases.
State Rep. Ross Ford (R-Broken Arrow), a former police officer, held an interim study before the House Public Safety Committee, during which he demonstrated how training law enforcement to properly process abandoned vehicles for DNA and other evidence could lead to quicker resolutions in missing persons’ cases and cold cases.
“Most of these cases have something in common,” Ford said. “That is a recovered vehicle that was not processed for evidence. Once the vehicle leaves the custody of law enforcement, we can’t go back and secure that information, yet many times this information could have been used to solve these cases.” Discussion during the study centered on training for law enforcement, coordination with wrecker services and then methods of matching information found with local and national databases for missing persons and cold cases.
Law enforcement officers and other presenters spoke of challenges such as crossing jurisdictional boundaries or securing vehicles on private property, as well as the cost involved in processing vehicles and the need for a proper environment to do this. They also spoke of the need for better collaboration between agencies, enhanced collection and reporting methods, and legislation that specifies a timeline and method for the maintenance of records.
“Police officers already search these vehicles for valuables and for items that might help them identify the owners,” Ford said. “Providing them with some additional training in what to look for as far as evidence could help us find missing persons and solve our cold-case backlogs.” He said wreckers working together with Department of Public Safety employees can identify suspicious vehicles more quickly, leading to a higher rate of resolution in missing persons’ cases and cold cases.