Captain Cody Wager discusses the work of the Pueblo Crimes Against Persons unit on March 8, 2024

Pueblo Police Detectives Implement New Strategies to Tackle Surge in Murders

Over the last three years, the city of Pueblo has seen a significant rise in homicides. The Pueblo Police Department has had to deal with a 138% increase in murder investigations from 2021 to 2023 compared to the previous three years.

At the same time, the number of detectives available to handle these cases has been cut in half over the last two years. Currently, every member of the Pueblo PD’s five-person Crimes Against Persons unit is focused on solving homicide cases, as stated by Captain Cody Wager, the leader of the unit.

Despite facing a reduction in staff and an increase in cases, Captain Wager commends his team’s efforts. He believes that their commitment ensures that no case is neglected.

Captain Wager acknowledges that the understaffing issue affects the unit, mirroring the broader challenges faced by the entire department.

He highlights the exceptional dedication of the officers in the unit. According to him, their willingness to be available even during weekends and vacations exemplifies their extraordinary commitment to their work and the community.

In 2023, Pueblo reported 27 homicides, with over 40% of these cases remaining unsolved, based on data from the Pueblo police.

For the unresolved cases, detectives have identified suspects or persons of interest in most, except for one case where no suspects have been identified yet.

The number of homicide investigations was similar in 2022, with 28 cases, and a slightly lower percentage of them remain open. In most of these cases, suspects or persons of interest have been identified.

In 2021, the police launched investigations into 26 homicides, including a case with three victims. Only two of these cases are still open, with suspects or persons of interest identified in one.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Pueblo has experienced a substantial increase in homicide rates. The city recorded a total of 34 homicides from 2018 to 2020, with the number of investigations jumping to 81 in the three years that followed.

The Crimes Against Persons unit has seen its manpower halved over the past three years. By the end of 2021, the unit had 10 detectives. By the end of 2023, that number had dropped to five.

It’s not unusual for a detective in the unit to lead three to four homicide investigations simultaneously. However, Captain Wager emphasizes the importance of teamwork, with every detective expected to contribute to the initial stages of any investigation.

Captain Wager points out that the first 48 hours of an investigation are crucial, especially for gathering physical evidence and securing the scene. Success in investigations can still be achieved with limited initial evidence, depending on cooperation from individuals, digital evidence, and search warrants.

Over his 20-year career, Captain Wager has seen the constant need for cooperation in solving cases. However, gang-related cases often face a lack of cooperation from both sides.

While gang violence might not have been a major factor in 2023’s homicides, juvenile violence is on the rise. Gaining trust and cooperation from these young individuals can be challenging, especially if they come from backgrounds distrustful of the police.

Captain Wager believes that honesty and openness are key to building trust with community members. He acknowledges the difficulty of this task, especially when dealing with juveniles influenced by negative perceptions of the police.

In conclusion, Captain Wager praises the dedication of his team to the department and the city. He emphasizes their commitment to seeking justice for victims.

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