Sunday, February 19, 2017

MAP analysis of Cleveland's unsolved female murders

The Murder Accountability Project has partnered with Cleveland's Plain Dealer newspaper to produce an analysis of nearly 60 unsolved female homicides that found highly suspicious clusters of similar killings.

Twelve of the murdered women had convictions for prostitution.

All of these are highly suggestive of serial killings that may included as many as three separate offenders. The Plain Dealer's story can be seen here.

MAP's serial killer algorithm (see Data & Docs) indicated that Cleveland has the nation's largest suspicious cluster of unsolved homicides when looking at the most recent 10 years of national data. The finding was made when producers of "The Killing Season" documentary series asked for an analysis during only the most recent years.

The documentary concluded there had been too many unsolved killings in and around 93rd Street.

MAP began its analysis after the body of Alianna DeFreeze, 14, was found in an abandoned building near the 93rd Street corridor, the victim of extensive and brutal injuries. A few days later, convicted sex offender Christopher Whitaker, 44, was arrested on the basis of DNA evidence, according to police.

Newspaper reporter Rachel Dissell linked Medical Examiner records of homicides to local prostitution arrest records and discovered that 12 victims had convictions as sex workers. Among the findings of the joint analysis:
  • Nine were in Cleveland and three were in East Cleveland.
    • Seven women were found in vacant lots or abandoned homes.
    • Nine were killed by strangulation, blunt-force trauma or stabbing.
    Cleveland police are reviewing all unsolved female murders committed since 2004 and are considering possible links among the 12 known sex workers, officials told MAP. 

    Tuesday, December 13, 2016

    Illinois trails all other states in catching killers

    Killers are more likely to get away with murder in Illinois than in any other state.

    Only 37.3 percent of the 756 homicides committed in Illinois in 2015 were cleared through the arrest (or death) of the offenders, according to a survey of police departments conducted by the Murder Accountability Project. The national homicide clearance rate in 2015 was 61.5 percent.

    The study by MAP was the first accounting of homicide clearance in Illinois in more than a generation. The state ceased reporting clearance data to the FBI in 1994, making Illinois the only state that doesn’t monitor how often killers are caught.

    “Illinois is badly under-performing when it comes to catching killers,” said Thomas K. Hargrove, founder and chairman of the Murder Accountability Project. “But since few people realize this, there is little hope that the public will demand change or that city, county and state leaders will monitor the problem and effect solutions.”

    The Illinois State Police, which gathers annual crimes statistics, does not follow the reporting standards set by the federal Uniform Crime Report. The state counts homicide arrests, but these are highly misleading data since two or three (or more) people are often arrested in a single case.

    That’s why the Illinois State Police reported 439 homicide arrests statewide while MAP estimates that only 282 homicides were actually cleared, based upon responses the nonprofit group received from Freedom of Information Act requests sent to 102 Illinois police departments.

    Lower-than-average clearance rates are not exclusive to the Chicago Police Department, which cleared 30.2 percent of its homicides in 2015. Several jurisdictions suffered even lower rates including East St. Louis, with a clearance rate of 26.3 percent; Joliet with 11.1 percent; Maywood with 15.4 percent; and Rockford with 15.8 percent. The Illinois State Police had one of the worst clearance rates, making only one arrest among the 18 homicides it investigated.

    To read the complete 14-page report with state and national data, click here.

    Preliminary 2015 homicide clearance data now available

    Preliminary 2015 homicide counts and clearance counts are now available for most of the nation’s law enforcement agencies. They can be accessed at the “Clearance Rates” tab.

    These preliminary records were provided by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services division in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and were taken from the division’s publication master file for last year. It should be noted that individual agencies are still reviewing and amending their 2015 data.

    Several large agencies, including the Baltimore, Chicago and Washington D.C. police departments, have not yet reported. The final UCR master file is scheduled for release in mid-January. The Murder Accountability Project will post the final records as soon as they are available.

    Last year was a challenging period for many police agencies since total homicides increased more than 10 percent to 15,696 deaths while the number of cases cleared through arrest declined by 3 percentage points to 61.5 percent.

    Thursday, November 17, 2016

    Illinois murder cases recovered after lawsuit

    The Murder Accountability Project has reached a settlement in its lawsuit against the Illinois State Police and is publishing online the case-level details of 432 homicides committed in Illinois from 1996 through 2015 that were not reported to the Justice Department.

    These recovered records, available at the "Search Cases" tab, represent only 20 percent of the estimated 2,100 homicides Illinois did not report to the FBI’s voluntary Supplementary Homicide Reporting program.

    Illinois ceased reporting SHR data to the federal government in 1994, but continued to gather supplemental data on homicides involving domestic violence, crimes against children and hate crimes. Illinois officials agreed to release those records as part of a settlement of M.A.P.’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed last year.

    “Although only partially successful, our agreement has recovered hundreds of records that may be useful to homicide investigators and to the public,” said Thomas K. Hargrove, chairman of the Murder Accountability Project’s board of directors. “We are building America’s most complete homicide database and are grateful for these records provided by Illinois State Police.”

    Illinois officials said they have no other homicide records available for recovery.
    Although the state once possessed homicide records from the mid 1990s, those “documents have since been disposed pursuant of the Secretary of State’s record retention rules which only provide that paper records be retained for 10 years,” said Illinois Freedom of Information Officer Nancy G. Easum.

    Illinois this year has resumed gathering complete Supplementary Homicide Report data.

    The Murder Accountability Project was entirely unsuccessful in its attempt to obtain homicide clearance records, which Illinois also ceased reporting in 1994 to the Justice Department’s Uniform Crime Report.

    “The (Illinois) UCR program has never collected necessary data that would allow for the calculation of a clearance rate for any criminal offenses,” Easum said. “Thus, in this regard, no such records exist.”

    Illinois is the largest jurisdiction in the United States failing to report how often it clears homicides through arrest.

    "The people have a right to be informed about public affairs and a right to public records.  Records related to homicide data and clearance rates are no exception," said Josh Burday of the Chicago civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy, who represented MAP in the suit.

    Thursday, October 27, 2016

    A&E documentary used MAP's serial killer algorithm

    The Murder Accountability Project has cooperated with the producers of the Arts and Entertainment Network’s documentary series “The Killing Season.” Investigators for A&E wanted to search for previously undetected serial killings among America's more than 220,000 unsolved homicides.

    The eight-episode project ran from Nov. 12 through Dec. 3, 2016. Under direction of Academy Award-winning Executive Producer Alex Gibney, documentarians Joshua Zeman and Rachel Mills investigate some of the most infamous unsolved serial killer cases of our time starting with the Gilgo Beach killings on Long Island.  

    The producers asked if MAP would apply its serial victim search algorithm (available for download at Data & Docs) to recent unsolved homicides and sent a camera crew to Cleveland and the site of significant cluster of unsolved killings along or near 93rd Street. MAP was featured in the 6th and 8th episodes. To see more about the series:

    Monday, September 26, 2016

    Murder clearance rate declined in 2015

    The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division estimates there were 15,696 homicides committed in the United States in 2015, a 10.8 percent increase over the previous year. The bureau also estimates that 61.5 percent of those crimes were cleared through arrest.

    The rate at which homicides are cleared has dropped by 3 percentage points over the previous year and is the third lowest on record, only slightly better than 2006 with a 60.7 percent clearance rate and 2007 with a 61.2 percent clearance rate.

    Based upon these estimates, the offenders responsible for at least 6,043 deaths last year were not arrested, formally charged or handed over to the courts for prosecution. That's up considerably from the 5,028 unsolved homicides in 2014. The Murder Accountability Project estimates there are at least 222,413 unsolved homicides committed from 1980 through the end of 2015.

    The rate at which homicides occur also increased in 2015, ending a trend in recent years of decline. There were 4.9 homicides per 100,000 population last year, up from 4.4 per 100,000 in 2014.

    To see a complete listing of the FBI's estimates for homicides and homicide clearance rates from 1965 through 2015, go to our Charts & Maps page. The Murder Accountability Project will post 2015 clearance rates for individual law enforcement agencies and individual case details from the Supplementary Homicide Report as soon as these records are available from the FBI.

    Friday, June 3, 2016

    Reporting murder should be mandatory, MAP urges

    The Murder Accountability Project’s Board of Directors has voted unanimously to urge law enforcement agencies in the United States to fully report homicide information to the Justice Department’s Uniform Crime Report and Supplementary Homicide Report. Police participation in the Uniform Crimes Report has been voluntary since its enactment by Congress in 1930.

    The Board further urged all 50 State Legislatures to make such reporting mandatory. The nonprofit group’s directors also asked Congress and the President to enact federal legislation requiring reporting of the case-level details to the FBI of all unsolved homicides not cleared through arrest after one year. 

    “Reporting murder should no longer be optional or voluntary,” said Thomas K. Hargrove, chairman of the nonprofit group. “The American people have the right to know the basic details of the nation’s murders and whether those killings have been solved.”

    The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services estimates 653,903 Americans were victims of homicides committed from 1980 through 2014. The Murder Accountability Project estimates at least 25,300 killings were not reported to the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and at least 37,200 were not reported to the Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR). Police also failed to report whether at least 43,600 killings were cleared through arrest.

    Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Murder Accountability Project has obtained case-level details on 21,800 homicides not reported to the Supplementary Homicide Report. The nonprofit group also has filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Illinois State Police which in 1994 ceased reporting homicide clearance data from Illinois to the UCR and any data whatsoever to the SHR.

    For the exact policies approved by the Murder Accountability Project’s Board, click here.