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Virginia police hope to solve cold homicide cases by distributing playing cards featuring photos of victims to prison inmates

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Screen shot of NBC12 Richmond YouTube video

Law enforcement officials in Virginia have taken to playing games in the hopes that doing so will help them solve some cold homicide cases.

On Thursday, the commonwealth attorney general's office issued a press release announcing that Richmond-area precincts had begun distributing playing cards featuring photos and other information regarding cold case victims to inmates detained at the Richmond City Justice Center.

"The loss of a murdered loved one is devastating. Not receiving justice makes it even worse," said Attorney General Jason Miyares. "I’m hopeful that this creative tool will help law enforcement provide answers and justice to these families."

There is some reason for optimism, as other municipalities throughout the country have had some success with similar programs.

According to the Daily Wire, two cold cases in Florida were solved after 100,000 decks of cards featuring 104 different cold cases were distributed to state inmates back in 2007.

The Connecticut State Department of Corrections claims to have had an even better return on its investment. Its website boasts that playing cards have helped solve 20 cold homicide, missing persons, and unidentified remains cases.

Kansas has also recently developed playing cards featuring its own unsolved cases. Though no case resolutions have yet been linked to the cards, state Secretary of Corrections Jeff Zmuda remains hopeful.

"Not every tip received leads to resolution of a case, but someone usually knows something," Zmuda said in a press release. "Within Kansas correctional facilities and jails, we have segments of our population who want to do something good, perhaps atone for past mistakes, and they may have information about unsolved cases."

In Virginia, the Richmond City Justice Center is piloting the playing cards program, so the cards feature only Richmond-area cases. Richmond Chief of Police Gerald Smith hopes that the cards will help bring closure to grieving families and the community.

"Families of loved ones who were taken from our community deserve closure and we’ve seen this be an effective resource in other jurisdictions,” Smith said. “We are proud to participate in this endeavor as this is a creative method for generating interest and information on pending cases that could help generate new leads."

The press release states that, in addition to information about the victims, the cards include tip line information so that inmates who recognize a victim or can offer any leads can report what they know.

Any inmate who helps solve a case will receive "a reward," the statement promises, though it is unclear what that reward might be.

Below is a short news segment on the playing cards, courtesy of NBC12 Richmond:


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