More than a month after former Baltimore city councilman Kenneth Harris Sr. was murdered, his case remains unsolved – highlighting a nagging problem for police, the Baltimore Sn reports. Despite a sharp drop in homicides this year, police are solving murders at the second-lowest rate in 28 years, a Sun analysis of police and FBI statistics found. In the 1980s, the department routinely solved more than 70 percent of its cases; so far this year, the rate is 45 percent. The steady decline in the department’s record of catching killers has left hundreds of homicides unresolved.
“I’m not satisfied,” said Maj. Terrence McLarney, who took command in July of the city’s homicide unit, which has more than 70 people. He would like to see the clearance rate about 15 points higher; he said police are finding other ways to lock up homicide suspects when they can’t secure murder charges. The nation’s homicide clearance rate has been declining gradually. Until the mid-1990s, Baltimore’s prominent homicide unit performed above average. Now Baltimore’s rate is about 10 percentage points below last year’s national average for cities of its size. The reasons for the decline are complex. They boil down to a homicide unit that was badly damaged by an exodus of veteran talent in the mid-1990s and the subsequent growth of a “stop snitching” culture, said David Kennedy, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “The stop-snitching momentum, which stands in opposition to law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute crimes, is swamping the beneficial impact of the lower homicide rate,” said Kennedy. “Yes, there are dramatically fewer [cases] to investigate. But you still need witnesses. You still need juries that will convict.” Said McLarney: “People in the drug culture have begun over the years to tolerate murder.”