We romanticize about crime–hence the popularity of true crime novels and crime TV shows including reality. We often forget these stories are very real to many people. In Syracuse, New York, the homicides are far too common, especially among young people. What makes these stories even more sad is that they often go unsolved. Estella Ballard, a Syracuse native who’s witnessed injustice in her own life, started “Unsolved Syracuse” in 2010 “to give a voice to the voiceless.” Keep reading. Her compassion will inspire you and is the epitome of why giving back to your community is so important. (Donate to the cause here.)
Estella Ballard: I have personally suffered injustice in my own life and have been witness to the injustices of others. It is something that has always bothered me. I am also a doer, and I dislike to hear people complain about a problem but take no action toward promoting change. I have a strong belief that it is all of our responsibility to make the world a better place by using our unique god given gifts – in a humble manner of course.
Sd: How would you describe “Unsolved Syracuse”? A movement? Resource?
EB: I would have to say it’s more of a resource. Some people in our urban community lack trust in law enforcement officials and that poses a huge problem. The police need information to solve these cases. The victims and their families need and deserve justice and, the only way to help satisfy these two needs is to offer a middle ground. I always advocate for witnesses to come forward and speak to the police, but for the people who don’t want to do that, for whatever reason, we are the middle ground. They can provide the needed information without having to worry about being given a subpoena. They don’t have to provide a written statement that could be used in a manner they never intended for it to be. We also provide self advocacy information for the victim’s families so that they can take action in keeping a case moving forward.
Sd: What is the overall mission and/or purpose of “Unsolved Syracuse”?
EB: Our only mission and purpose is to get the information into the hands of the officers who need it and to represent the voiceless members of our community.
This is our way of communicating the message: we have not forgotten about these cases and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure they don’t either.
Sd: How would you describe the overall response to the “Unsolved Syracuse” Facebook Page?
Unexpected. There are days when we are able to reach more than 30,000 people. I never thought we would reach so many or that so many people would be supportive of the cause. I am honored but also humbled by our supporters. It is only because of them and through them – that the page makes any difference at all.
Sd: What do you hope most are taking from the Page?
More than anything, I want them to take hope. To know that someone cares and that cold cases are not hopeless, there is power in presence and in numbers.
(Pic: Estella Ballard)
Sd: The stories/reports posted are not “feel good” stories. What is difficult about running this type of page and how do you deal?
EB: The most difficult part for me? Knowing who committed the crime coupled with the ultimate realization that the police do not have enough evidence to make an arrest or bring closure. That is the worst of all. I cope with these situations by constantly reminding myself that they are one break away from solving a case. Seeing a profile or anniversary announcement might trigger a tip. I cope by remaining hopeful. I continually remind myself that they might be one tip away from solving a case. It is that single fact that keeps me going forward.
Sd: What are some local issues that have been brought to your attention after starting the page?
EB: Violence among teens. That is the one thing that has been consistent each year. It is disheartening to constantly be asked “When will the violence stop?”
Sd: Any past/current crimes “solved” by “Unsolved Syracuse” tips or created new leads?
EB: I will say that tips are definitely sent in and they are turned over to law enforcement. I can not discuss which cases or give specifics about them but we are definitely making a difference.
Sd: What advice would you give to people who want to be involved in this project or similar projects?
EB: I would encourage them to be brave. People will tell you that what you are doing won’t make a difference or discourage you in other ways. Don’t let any of that sink in. Be true to yourself and stand up for what you believe in. Find the calling for your life and pursue your passion. No one can do everything but everyone can do something. Even if you only help one person, it matters to them and you’ve done your job.
Sd: What would you like to see happen from “Unsolved Syracuse” in say…5 years?
I have began designing a “Time Out” group. It will be a guide for hurt people who are hurting people so that they can free themselves and stop the cycle of pathology through a 9 step program that will focus on growth and accepting personal responsibility as well as self regulation and mastering important life skills. In 5 years, I would like to see Unsolved Syracuse
expand and focus on intervention. I will continue to focus on being a voice for the voiceless but I also want to help the hurt people to free themselves so that we can reduce the number of missing persons and unsolved
homicides. I want Unsolved Syracuse
to increase it’s reach and continue to assist with getting the information needed to help solve these cases.
Sd: Anything else you would like to share with my readers?
Other than that, I hope that people will see the value of Unsolved Syracuse
and help with some of it’s expenses through the GoFundMe
Page so that the difference I am able to make is increased. I want to encourage them to visit the page and participate. Comment, like and share stories and profiles. Your share could be the one that makes all the difference.
Pictures courtesy of Estella Ballard and Unsolved Syracuse‘s Facebook Page