Friday, December 3, 2010

Police Solving Fewer and Fewer Murders

When a homicide is solved by a law enforcement agency the case is considered cleared. Clearance rates are important to police departments. A high clearance rate is indicative of competence and efficiency. Clearance rates are important to a city’s reputation. A city with a low clearance rate, theoretically, has a bunch of murderers walking the street.

National studies have shown steady declines in clearance rates from 90 percent in the 1960s to 65 percent in recent years, according to the Kansas City Star. This decline in clearing homicide cases is in spite of an overall decrease in the number of homicides and improvements in DNA and other technologies.

National experts blame the drop in part on the changing nature of homicides, with more killers having little or no traceable connection to victims. Killings involving drugs, gangs and botched robberies can be among the toughest to solve, especially compared to those involving domestic disputes, bar fights and child abuse, reported the Star.

In Kansas City, police have solved fewer homicides this year than any year in recent memory. By mid-November, the clearance rate stood at 39 percent (36 of 93), down from 50 percent at the same time last year. According to the Star, detectives solved 70 to 80 percent of homicides as recently as twenty years ago.

The clearance rate of some other major cities as reported by the Star, St. Louis—47 percent (54 of 116); Baltimore—37 percent (73 of 200); Austin, Texas—88 percent (29 of 33) and New York City—59 percent. According to Scripps Howard News Service, in 2008, police solved 35 percent of the homicides in Chicago, 22 percent in New Orleans and 21 percent in Detroit.

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