Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Do most homicides go unsolved in your town?

The majority of homicides go unsolved in a growing number of major American cities, an alarming trend that has worsened significantly during the last 20 years.

Some 130 major police and sheriff's departments reported to the FBI that they failed to make an arrest in most of the homicides they investigated in 2020, up from 73 jurisdictions in 2019, according to a new study by the nonprofit Murder Accountability Project. The study examined departments that experience at least 10 homicides each year.

This means thousands of killers still walk the streets for homicides they committed in major urban areas like Albuquerque, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Atlanta’s DeKalb County, Houston, Indianapolis, Memphis, New Orleans, and St. Louis. At least 9,000 homicides were uncleared in 2020.

Under U.S. Justice Department reporting guidelines, a homicide is considered “cleared” if at least one person has been arrested, formally charged with the crime and handed over to a court of law for trial. 

The national clearance rate, as estimated by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, has steadily declined from about 90 percent in 1965 to only 54 percent in 2020.

Only one major jurisdiction, the East St. Louis Police Department, failed to clear most of its homicides in 1965. But the number of jurisdictions where most murders go unsolved rose steadily decade-by-decade until maxing out at 91 in 2016, then declining somewhat the following three years. The 130 cities found in 2020 represent a new all-time high in jurisdictions where most murders went unsolved. 

Cities that fail to solve most of their homicides also suffer a much higher than average rate of homicide compared to similar cities that clear most of their murders.

Go to the "Clearance Rate" tab to see how many murders are solved in your town.

This study was conducted using the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. Only police departments that reported 10 or more homicides for a single year and reported clearing at least one homicide (many departments decline to report clearance data) were used in this study. To download the Excel spreadsheet of the 2,240 occasions in which police failed to clear most homicides, click here.