Violent crime in the U.S. has been falling for two decades, but when crimes occur, they mostly go unpunished, says NPR. For most major crimes, police don’t make an arrest or identify a suspect. That’s what police call “clearing” a crime; the “clearance rate” is the percentage of offenses cleared. In 2013, the national clearance rate for homicide was 64 percent. University of Maryland criminologist Charles Wellford says police have been pushed to focus more on prevention, which has taken precedence over solving crimes, especially non-violent offenses.
NPR created a tool allowing visitors to check the clearance rates of most local law enforcement agencies, for three years running. Note that sometimes cities fail to report, or their data are rejected because of errors. For instance, this database shows the New York Police Department clearing zero homicides in 2011 and 2012, which was clearly not the case. These data follow the standards of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, meaning that clearances are credited to the year in which the crime was cleared, not the year in which it was committed. It’s sometimes possible for a city to clear more murders than were committed in a year, for a clearance rate above 100 percent.