The share of homicides that police solve has steadily declined – from over 90 percent in the 1960s to about 65 percent today. The Christian Science Monitor says that the trend defies advances in forensic technology and a federal initiative that has deployed more than 100,000 new cops since the early ’90s. Most surprising, it has persisted even as the murder total has plunged. The national murder total fell 40 percent between 1991 and 2007, but in a few large cities only about 1 in 3 murders got solved last year.
With the economic downturn, expectations are fading that police can improve their record by devoting more manpower to tracing killers. Nearly 40 percent of law-enforcement agencies have already cut their budgets, says the Police Executive Research Forum. “What’s going to happen is that you’re going to have fewer police trying to solve just as much crime,” says criminologist Jay Albanese of Virginia Commonwealth University. “If that’s the scenario, you can’t just continue doing what you’re doing now, or you’ll continue to slowly slide backwards.” A common explanation for the slide in closure rates is the shift in the profile of the typical murder. A few decades ago, most homicides involved acquaintances and were not premeditated. Today, most involve strangers and often accompany other criminal activity. Such cases generally present fewer and more-reluctant witnesses.