Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Odds of solving homicides are a "coin flip" in America, CBS reports

Homicide detectives nationwide are overloaded and overwhelmed by surging numbers of murders, resulting in unprecedented drops in homicide clearance rates. CBS News, local television affiliates and chief investigative correspondent Jim Axelrod have embarked in a series of special reports examining the problem.

The FBI estimates only 54 percent of homicides were cleared through the arrest of the offenders in 2020, the lowest national clearance rate on record. This decline is associated with nearly a 30 percent rise in homicides that year, the largest single-year increase on record.

"For us, it's the volume," concluded Philadelphia veteran homicide detective Joe Murray. There were 561 homicides in Philadelphia last year, a record for the city. Only 42 percent of homicides in Philadelphia were cleared in 2020. 

CBS noted a growing discrepancy in homicide clearance rates according to the race and ethnicity of the victim, with African American victims experiencing the lowest clearance rate. Clearance rates for non Hispanic white victims have improved over the past 30 years. The Murder Accountability Project (MAP) has reported 100 percent of the nation's historic decline in homicide clearance was borne by black victims since clearance rates for white, Asian American and American Indian victims have held steady or even improved over time.

MAP also estimates most homicides went unsolved in 130 major cities and urban areas in American in 2020, another record. The homicide rate is significantly higher in these jurisdictions, averaging nearly 23 homicides per 100,000 population. There is a broad, inverse relationship between rates of homicide clearance and occurrence. Communities that experience low clearance rates are much more likely to have elevated rates of murder.

"The Murder Accountability Project firmly believes declining homicide clearance rates are the result of inadequate allocation of resources -- detectives, forensic technicians, crime laboratory capacity, and adequate training of personnel," said MAP Chairman Thomas Hargrove. "This represents a failure of political will by local leaders."