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LAPD's homicide library puts files a click away for detectives

In today’s L.A. Times, Nicole Santa Cruz writes about the Los Angeles Police Department’s plan to create a “Google for murder."

The article looks at how the LAPD has assembled a digital library of homicide files – solved and unsolved – with the goal of putting a database of long dormant cases within a click away for police detectives.

So far, the database includes cases from the southern part of the city – long the deadliest – between 1990 and 2010.

For LAPD Det. Teddy Hammond, creating the database has meant reliving some of the most violent years in the city. He’s paged through crime scene photographs, medical reports and handwritten notes to prepare the files to be scanned.

Hammond, who prides himself on his detective skills, read through cases only to come away angry and frustrated by what he saw as shoddy police work. Some families never even received a phone call.

As he delved deeper into the files, he realized that investigators had been strained by the violence. There simply weren't enough of them.

"They were swamped," Hammond said.

One day, Hammond was sorting through files when he saw a name he recognized.

He paused. Wait a minute, he thought. I know this name.

It was the file of his cousin Sobu Sisiall Hammond, killed May 30, 1994. He was 19.

Hammond read through the file.

I have someone in here too, he thought.

Now, he says, the library is about moving forward and making amends.

Read more here. Questions? You can read a transcript of an online chat about the story, or email Nicole at nicole.santacruz@latimes.com.

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Graphic: Homicides in the city peaked at 1,092 in 1992, but by 2012 they had dropped to 299. Credit: Ryan Menezes / Los Angeles Times

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