Thursday, October 6, 2022

The quest for America's missing murders

A quick glance at the homicide report for 2021 (see the "Clearance Rate" tab) seems to suggest a significant decline in murders when compared to 2020. This is actually the result of dramatically declining reporting rates by local police to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual crime report. Homicides actually increased in 2021 over the previous year.

Local law enforcement agencies reported only 14,715 homicides while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so far have counted 25,988 murders. This means police reported only 56.6 percent of the nation's homicides in 2021, the worst reporting rate on record. 

The reason is that the FBI has mandated that all crimes committed in 2021 and afterwards must be reported via the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) rather than the Summary Reporting System used for more than 90 years under the Uniform Crime Report. 

NIBRS is a superior, but much more complicated, reporting system that records case-level details for every homicide, robbery, assault, burglary, sexual assault and other major crimes. About half of America's police and sheriff's departments have yet to become compliant in NIBRS reporting standards. 

The Murder Accountability Project will seek to obtain more than 11,000 missing homicide records in the coming months by contacting state and local law enforcement agencies, entreating them to report under the old UCR standards to MAP until they adopt the superior NIBRS standards. To see a state-by-state accounting of unreported homicides in 2021, click here.

"We urge all law enforcement agencies to adopt the superior NIBRS standard for crime reporting. This is an investment in robust accounting in crime that will assist policy makers and local leaders to make wise decisions to assist law enforcement," said MAP Chairman Thomas Hargrove. "We also urge state and local leaders to support our efforts to obtain crime data under the old reporting standards until all law enforcement becomes NIBRS compliant."