Homicide Clearance Rates Vary Widely Among U.S. Cities


In Cook County, Il., only about one third of murders since 1980 have been solved, according to a Scripps-Howard News Service study of crime records provided by the FBI. Police solved only 35 percent of the murders in Chicago in 2008. “We’d expect that — with more police officers, more scientific tools likes DNA analysis and more computerized records — we’d be clearing more homicides now with more resources,” said Bill Hagmaier of the International Homicide Investigators Association and retired chief of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. “But the clearance rates have fallen drastically.”

Nearly 185,000 killings went unsolved from 1980 to 2008, the study found. Experts say murders have become tougher to solve because there are fewer crimes of passion, where the assailant is easier to identify, and more drug- and gang-related killings. Some city police departments routinely solve most of their homicides. While only 22 percent were solved in New Orleans and 21 percent in Detroit in 2008, that same year 75 percent were solved in Philadelphia, 92 percent in Denver and 94 percent in San Diego.

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