Saturday, October 9, 2021

Homicide clearance in the United States drops to a new low

Much attention has been given to the recently released 2020 Uniform Crime Report showing nearly a 30 percent increase in homicides in the United States, the largest single-year rise on record. But little regard has been paid to an equally disturbing trend. Law enforcement agencies cleared only 54 percent of homicides by arresting and formally charging the suspected killers, according to the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS). That is the worst single-year drop and the lowest murder clearance rate on record.

The unusual jump in total murders and dismal decline in homicide clearances are inter-related. The nation's police and sheriff's departments were overwhelmed and understaffed in 2020 to meet the surging demand for their investigative services. The challenges to law enforcement were complicated further by the COVID pandemic, by public outrage at the suffocation murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and by widespread demonstrations on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Most murders went unsolved in 130  major jurisdictions last year (communities experiencing at least 10 homicides). This also is a historic high and resulted in a dire consequence to public safety. The homicide rate is significantly higher in these jurisdictions, averaging nearly 23 homicides per 100,000 population. This rate is more than three times the national average.

"The Murder Accountability Project believes the primary causes of declining clearance rates are a failure to give necessary resources to local police and a failure of political will by local elected leaders to make investigation of major crimes a priority," said Thomas Hargrove, chairman of the group's Board of Directors. "When leaders make solving major crimes a priority, clearance rates usually improve and lives are saved."

To see MAP's interactive chart of homicide clearance rates over time, click HERE.