Thursday, March 14, 2019

Half of Native American homicides not reported to FBI

Law enforcement agencies failed to notify the FBI about nearly half of homicides of American Indians and Alaskan Natives committed from 1999 to 2017, according to a study by the nonprofit Murder Accountability Project (MAP).

The study found Indian murders are the least likely of any racial group to be reported to the federal Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) which is part of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the nation’s official accounting for major crimes. These records are valuable to local, state and federal authorities for identifying and responding to challenges facing law enforcement.

At least 2,406 Indian and Native murders have not been reported to federal authorities. This finding is based on MAP’s comparison of homicides reported by medical authorities to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and homicides reported by police to the Supplementary Homicide Report. 

MAP representatives met with U.S. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney and other Interior Department leaders on February 4 to discuss these reporting failures.  MAP’s study resulted from a request by Interior officials who also sought a briefing on the findings. Interior officials declined to comment publicly on the findings of this report.

The study found reporting of Indian murders has improved in recent years, especially since 2015 when several tribes like the Navajo Tribal Police began reporting homicides to the FBI for the first time. Reporting rates also vary by state, with the largest number of unreported homicides occurring in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma. To download the eight-page MAP report on these reporting failures, click here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Chicago strangulations continue with six recent murders

Unsolved strangulations of women, many with histories of prostitution and illegal drug use, are continuing in Chicago with the recent killings of at least six women, according to a new report by veteran WBBM-TV reporter Pam Zekman in consultation with the Murder Accountability Project.

More than 50 women have been strangled or asphyxiated since 2001, their bodies recovered in alleyways, abandoned properties or found stuffed in trash containers. MAP's serial-detection algorithm has flashed a warning about these murders for several years.   (See the "Murder Clusters" tab on this website).

Chicago Police usually make arrests when women are murdered. But the strangulation and asphyxiation killings overwhelmingly have gone unsolved, a pattern highly suggestive of serial murder. To see a map showing the victims' names, body-recovery locations and details of these crimes, click here.

"We absolutely believe that the recent killings are part of a continuing pattern," said MAP chairman Thomas Hargrove. "It’s highly unlikely these 50 women were murdered by 50 separate men."

Zekman found the September 2018 death of Reo Renee Holyfield, whose body was found in a garbage container, is in limbo. Holyfield's autopsy report indicated circumstances suggested "the death could have been homicide" by asphyxiation. But the Cook County Medical Examiner ruled that Holyfield's body was too decomposed to make a definite determination, so her cause of death was officially classified as "undetermined." Chicago Police, in turn, classified the case as a "suspended death investigation."

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson vowed to continue investigating the cases, including a review of DNA evidence. "We are looking at them now to see if we can go back and do some additional testing to see if that will help us bring to the forefront who these individuals are," he said. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Black murders accounted for all of America's clearance decline

Declining homicide clearance rates for African-American victims accounted for all of the nation’s alarming decline in law enforcement’s ability to clear murders through the arrest of criminal offenders, according to a new study of data compiled by the nonprofit Murder Accountability Project (MAP).

Reported clearance rates for the other three races counted in the Supplementary Homicide Report – whites (which includes ethnic Hispanics), Asians and Native Americans – actually improved slightly over the period from 1976 through 2017.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg, West Virginia, has estimated the nation’s homicide clearance rate for many years and found up to 90 percent of murders were cleared through the arrest of offenders in the mid 1960s, a rate that steadily declined until reaching 61 percent in 2017. This decline in clearance rates has been widely observed for many years.

But the Murder Accountability Project's study found declining clearance rates exclusively occurred among homicides of black victims based upon offender-identification data found in the Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) from 1976 through 2017. Clearance rates for all other races improved.

This racial divide occurred in every region of the nation and in most communities, regardless of size. Major urban centers, suburban neighborhoods, rural counties and tiny cities all generally experienced a large decline in the rate at which black homicides are solved through arrest.

Click here to download MAP's six-page report on this trend. The Murder Accountability Project's augmented SHR data, which includes more than 27,000 homicide cases not reported to the FBI, can be downloaded at no cost at the "Data & Docs" tab at this website.