Decks of playing cards are being distributed to inmates in prisons throughout Florida, but these are no ordinary cards. Each one features a photograph – or sketch in some cases – and facts about an unsolved homicide or missing person case.
In order to make a dent in the hundreds of unsolved cases that have gone cold, meaning there are no leads or suspects, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Department of Corrections (DC), and the state Attorney General’s office combined efforts with the Florida Association of Crime Stoppers to develop and manufacture the cards. Approximately 100,000 decks are already in distribution.
There are two decks of cards that profile 104 of the coldest murder cases in Florida. There is a third deck in the process of being produced. Besides the photographs and facts on each card, the Crime Stoppers toll free phone number is listed, and every inmate is given access to a phone to call the number.
The first decks were distributed in the summer of 2006 and produced 66 tips. As a result, two murders were solved and others are in process and no longer considered cold cases. Florida’s success thus far, with the cards, has encouraged numerous cities around the country – San Diego, CA; Kansas City, MO; and Odessa, TX – to create their own decks and distribute to their respective local prisons.
The original inspiration for the cards came from Polk County, Florida investigator Tommy Ray who developed his own set of cards for the county jail there. After a murder was solved, because of a tip from an inmate, word of the success spread. He has since been involved in the state’s efforts to replicate his idea.
Members of law enforcement and prison officials claim that the program is so effective because so many inmates are incarcerated for non-violent offenses and find murder to be reprehensible. They realize that murder victims could be their own parents or siblings, and when they hear rumblings behind prison walls that someone was responsible for a murder, they are likely to report that tip. They often hear about names and crimes within prison circles, and seeing a face or information on a playing card might trigger a memory. Also, knowing that they can report information anonymously helps the incentive.
FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey commented, “Tips from the cards continue to come in, and our law enforcement partners are aggressively working those leads.”
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum added, “This is an innovative and proactive approach towards solving cases that might otherwise never come to a close. I am pleased to offer the support of the Attorney General’s Office and look forward to many more successful developments as a result of this initiative.”
Members of the public can purchase the cards to support the program, and the website to do so is www.EffectivePlayingCards.com.