‘Cold case’ playing cards distributed to prison inmates

DOVER — Nearly 8,000 decks of playing cards marked with unsolved crimes — cold cases — with details and photos were delivered to the state’s four prisons on Friday.

The decks feature information about 52 unsolved homicides, unidentified remains and missing persons and will replace the decks of playing cards at the prisons’ commissaries.

The hope is that an inmate who may have new information on a featured cold case may be encouraged to step forward and assist authorities, officials said.

One of the cards in the playing deck of 52.

The new project is a collaboration between Delaware State Police, the New Castle County Police Department (NCCPD), the Wilmington Police Department, Crime Stoppers and the Delaware Department of Correction.

“All efforts to bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice are worth exploring,” state police Col. Nathanial McQueen said in a statement. “Citizens incarcerated in our correctional facilities may be able to provide information or investigative leads that may lead to an arrest. It is important to the families of the victims and to the community that police continue to pursue every investigative lead.”

According to the DOC, the new cold case cards will be the only playing cards available for purchase in prison commissaries, but the price of a deck of cards won’t change. Each card will have the phone number for Crime Stoppers so inmates can supply information anonymously.

“The DOC is a proud partner of this innovative project and we will continue to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies in order to support the victims and surviving family members,” DOC Deputy Commissioner Alan Grinstead said in a statement. “As the largest law enforcement agency in the state, we have the unique opportunity to make these cards available to a population that may have information which could lead to the resolution of cold cases.”

DOC spokeswoman Jayme Gravell said the idea for the project came from a similar initiative launched in Connecticut prisons. According to the Connecticut DOC, the program — launched over seven years ago — has worked so well they’re in their fourth edition of reprinting the decks so solved cases could be removed and new ones added.

“Through three editions, there have been 20 cold cases have been solved,” said Connecticut DOC spokesman Andrius Banevicius.

According to Connecticut’s Division of Criminal Justice, as of April 2017, investigators have received more than 675 tips prompted by the playing cards.

Hoping for similar results, Ms. Gravell said there was no shortage of potential cards to be added in the future.

“To select which cases were included in the first deck, each police agency looked at all their cases and determined which ones had the best chances of being solved with new information,” she said. “Then each agency included 17. There are more though. The state police had 80 cases alone, it wasn’t an easy list to reduce down.”

As part of the new initiative, cold case videos have been produced and are available on the NCCPD Cold Case Facebook page. The videos will also be shown on DOC’s closed circuit television station at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and in Probation and Parole offices statewide.


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