Cleveland: Home to Mounds of Unidentified Bodies? Naah.

In a report recently released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Cleveland came in second place in the illustrious contest of cities with the most unidentified human remains. With 2,814 bodies and counting, Cleveland was only surpassed by New York’s 3,612. Given the size difference, one might assume our little Venice by the Lake has the mortality rate of Baghdad. But that assumption would be, scientifically speaking, way wrong. The problem is the Associated Press story on the study failed to mention one critical detail: that the records from reporting cities vary wildly. New York, for example, compiled those 3,612 unidentified bodies since 1996. Cleveland’s number is composed from records stretching all the way back to 1900. “The real story is Cleveland has great records,” says Matthew Hickman, lead author of the report. “The fact they can document over 2,000 unidentified decedents is incredible. Don’t hold it against the Cleveland medical examiner. The record keeping varies dramatically.” But that’s little comfort to county Coroner Elizabeth Balraj, who’s been fielding calls from reporters all day, wondering why her office can’t identify shit. “That’s a great injustice to Cleveland,” she says. Since 1987 to the present, she’s had just 22 unidentified bodies. “We don’t have 2,184 unidentified bodies,” she says. “We don’t have room to keep them.” – T.K. Kim
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