Today I Learned about the Vidocq Society, an elite crime-solving club made up of current and former FBI profilers, homicide investigators, scientists, psychologists, prosecutors and coroners that meets each month in Philadelphia to solve cold cases.
Members, who like to describe themselves as ‘crime solution catalysts’, pay an annual $100 subscription fee, and agree to attend at least one meeting a year, regardless of where in the world they live. Each meeting attracts about 60 members. Funded in part by a cut of a reported $1.3 million film development deal signed with Danny DeVito’s Jersey Films in 1997, the society pays for travel and accommodation expenses – so that underfunded detectives from across America can present their most perplexing cases at the Downtown Club.
‘We’ll never see the FBI or the New York City police bring a case to us,’ says Vidocq’s chairman, Fred Bornhofen – a 70-year-old private security consultant and former spook for the Office of Naval Intelligence. ‘But we’ll get all the state and town cases, because they just don’t have the training, background or sophistication to handle it.’
Despite the restrictions the society places on the crimes it will consider – only unsolved deaths more than two years old; the victims cannot have been engaged in criminal activity such as prostitution or drug-dealing; the case must be formally presented to them by the appropriate law enforcement agency – there is no shortage of work.