I-TEAM: Unsolved Murders: New Haven Police Chief addresses why clearance rates are lower than surrounding cities

New Haven police chief addresses unsolved murders
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 7:28 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NEW HAVEN, CT (WFSB) - Now to an I-Team Investigation: local murders going unsolved.

During the last 3 years, both the cities of New Haven and Hartford have experienced some of their deadliest years in around a decade.

But one local city is solving more homicides than the other.

In the first story of our series, Chief Investigative Reporter Sam Smink sits with New Haven’s Police Chief to learn why, and what’s being done about it.


Even at 21 years old, Janette Ayala calls her son Angel Rodriguez, her baby.

“We talked everyday. Every day,” says Ayala. “I always tended to baby him a little bit and he hated it.”

To sister Janelli Rodriguez, he was her best friend.

“He was very driven and anytime he had an idea to do something, he went out and did it. If that moved too slow for him, he started over with something else and he went out and he did it,” says Rodriguez.

Angel had big dreams, Rodriguez says. He worked as a security guard at Amazon’s Orange warehouse, while running a side power-washing business.

He lugged around heavy equipment, despite suffering from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which damages the nerves in the legs and arm.

“He was very smart and hard working. And he loved his family, he loved his son,” says Rodriguez. “He was so excited to be a dad. It changed everything for him. It changed his beliefs, and it changed how much affection he showed. He was never as affectionate until he had his son.”

This month, the family will celebrate Angel’s son’s 4th birthday.

But they’ll also be marking something much more painful, the two-year anniversary of Angel’s murder.


The last time Janelli Rodriguez spoke to her brother was the night of February 13th, 2021.

“Our last phone call, that was the last thing we said to each other. Alright, I love you, be safe,” says Rodriguez.

She tried to call him the next day, to talk. He never answered.

“When he didn’t answer for me, he didn’t answer for Nellie, he didn’t answer for me, we knew something was wrong,” says Ayala.

Two days later, on February 15th, Angel’s body was found by a jogger in New Haven’s East Rock Park. He was shot in the head.

Angel’s family says they jumped right into action.

“They took it upon themselves to go to the neighbor’s house, get videos. They went to the corner store, got videos. They knocked on every door,” says Ayala.

Ring camera footage from a neighbor’s camera shows Angel leaving his house on Valentine’s Day, after receiving a call from a friend, who then picked up the 21 year old at his house. A friend his family says Angel grew up with.

“We know who was involved, because word in the street. We definitely know who was in the car with him when he left the house,” says Ayala.

Family says the police told them they suspect Angel was caught in the middle of a shootout, that someone in another car shot at him and killed him.

Angel likely was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The family says police told them they have not identified that second vehicle.

“Everybody will say that their family member never deserved it. But I know that my brother didn’t deserve it because he wasn’t in the streets, running the streets,” says Rodriguez. “He went home to his family every day, he worked his butt off.”

Nearly two years later, police have made no arrests in his case.

“I would say to that family, we won’t give up, we’re going to work as hard as possible to solve every case,” says New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson.


Angel’s case isn’t the only one that remains unsolved.

Between January 1st, 2020 and today, there have been 65 homicides in New Haven.13 have resulted in arrests.

A 20% clearance rate.

The national rate is 54%, meaning more than half of the cases across the country are solved.

New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson, who took over in July, says staffing is part of the problem.

“I can’t leave my people hanging. I can’t put my people in a position to fail. We need to get those numbers up,” says Jacobson.

He says up until late 2021, there was only one unit, with 4 detectives and a sergeant, who were assigned homicides.

“Unfortunately, we’ve allowed our detective number to go low, extremely low, the lowest I’ve ever seen it in 17 years,” says Chief Jacobson.

“They got way too many cases. That was a mistake, that was a mistake.”

A mistake he’s trying to correct.

Chief Jacobson says a new detective schedule was created in 2021.

26 major crimes detectives are now splitting the homicide workload.

“This has worked way better for us,” says Chief Jacobson.

He said because of this, they have been able to make more arrests in shots fired incidents as well.

Chief says they’ve had more than 20 arrests on shots fired calls alone, in the last year.

He says arrests like those, helps curb homicides.

“There’s a very small number of people who do the shootings, very small,” says Chief Jacobson. “So if we’re able to catch those people, put them in jail, we’re able to slow down the violence significantly.”

The city’s homicide number was cut in half from 2021 to 2022.


The I-Team pulled data from other cities in the state.

While Hartford Police had 98 homicides during that same time period (January 1, 2020 to today), they were able to clear 56% of them.

In Waterbury, Police solved 87% of their 40 homicides.

The I-Team asked Chief Jacobson why his department’s clearance rates are lower. Chief says there are a few reasons.

“I would say that’s directly related to technology,” says Chief Jacobson. “They [Hartford, Waterbury] have excellent intel centers, camera systems, and license plate readers throughout both of their cities.”

New Haven has 200 surveillance cameras across the city, compared to Hartford’s 1200.

The city announced one year ago, they’d be installing 500 new surveillance cameras.

15 have been installed so far, along with 15 license plate readers. The chief cites supply chain issues for the delay.

New Haven Police are also building a real time intel center, just like Hartford, which would allow them to look at video from across the city live.

“The ability to find cars that are used in crimes, the ability to know what car was used in a crime, it’s a game changer,” says Chief Jacobson. “Currently, there’s a delay in looking at the cameras after. Where, in those cities, they’re looking at the cameras immediately.”

The center is set to open in July.


Another game changer? Repairing the department’s relationship with the community.

“I think if you look at pre pandemic and pre George Floyd you see, at least for us, better clearance rates,” says Chief Jacobson.

He says there was better communication then and better help from the community.

In 2019, New Haven had 11 homicides. 5 resulted in arrests - a 45% clearance rate.Then 2020 came.

“We see an increase [in violence], we see COVID coming around the corner. We see George Floyd and the protests, " says Chief Jacobson. “We see that trust kind of backing off, so we’re getting less people to talk to us, but we’re also not doing as much on the street.”

He said during the pandemic, officers were encouraged by police leadership not to interview anyone at the station, a mistake he says may have led to further division.”It was just a really bad scenario of not wanting people in and out of the building, people not wanting to come to the building, people not trusting the police because of what was going on nationally,” says Chief Jacobson.

To earn back that trust, he’s added new walking beats to all shifts, so officers are out in the community more.

“The theory in New Haven is, we’re all community police officers. So you start as a walking beat, you’re in the same area, you build those bonds and as you move through the ranks, you’re a detective,” says Chief Jacobson. “There’s actually data to say, if the community trusts the police, they adhere to the law and if the community trusts the police, they’re going to help with cases and they are going to talk to the police.”


It’s one of his top priorities, because as the Chief will tell you, many homicides can’t be solved without the public’s help.

“I say, think about a woman in our city, Laquvia Jones. In 2020, her son was murdered, we have a lot of information in that case, but I don’t think any arrest will be made. In 2023, on January 1st, her other son was murdered. We cannot bring a woman like Miss Jones justice without people helping us. And the pain and suffering we see her family going through, she deserves justice,” says Chief Jacobson.

He says tips can be anonymous, but in some cases, a witness may need to testify in court.

Chief Jacobson says the Chief State’s Attorney has witness protection programs, for anyone who may be hesitant to come forward.

“The important thing for people to know is, we’ll protect them,” says Chief. “Getting that person off the street, there’s not people that are going to kill for this person,”

He says it’s important for people to think about what they would want someone to do, if their loved one was murdered.

Angel Rodriguez’s family understands that, all too well.

The family says the community will speak to them, but that’s all they will do.”When it came down to, so we’re going to give your information to the police, it was always like: no, don’t do that. I don’t want to talk to the police about it,” says Rodriguez. “Until it happens to them. Until it happens to them then the shoe is on the other foot,” says Ayala.


In 2019, New Haven had 11 homicides. 5 resulted in arrests - a 45% clearance rate.

There were 78 non-fatal shootings.

In 2020, the city saw 20 homicides with 5 arrests. A 25% clearance rate.

There were 121 non-fatal shootings in the city.

In 2021, the city jumped to 26 homicides. 7 have been closed. A 26% clearance rate.

There were 110 non-fatal shootings.

Last year, there were 14 homicides, with 1 arrest. A second is pending and over at the courts.

Chief says 4 warrants are currently being finalized.

There were 110 non-fatal shootings.

So far in 2023, there have been 5 homicides. All are still open cases.

Thursday night at 11, the I-Team will sit down with Hartford’s Police Chief to learn what they do to solve homicides.