After years of lagging behind the rest of the country in solving murders, the Boston Police Department’s success rate improved by 10 percent following a homicide unit overhaul that included more investigators and civilian staff support, the addition of a crime analyst, technological improvements and more training, reports the Boston Globe. Between 2007 and 2011, police cleared 148 of 314 killings, or just 47 percent. After the overhaul, between 2012 and 2014 they solved 86 of 151 killings, or 57 percent.
The changes began in 2012 under a federal Smart Policing Initiative grant, which was used to bring in researchers from Northeastern University led by criminologist Anthony Braga, who recently quantified the homicide clearance rate. The overhaul began with research: Police Department staff worked with investigators to comb through every homicide file from 2007 to 2011 and interview detectives. They analyzed case characteristics and investigative practices, including actions of first responders, to see which elements led to arrest and conviction. They also studied best practices in other countries. The homicide unit, commanded by a lieutenant detective and composed of one cold case squad and eight current case squads, was expanded. An extra detective was added to each of the squads, which already had two detectives and a detective sergeant. A civilian crime analyst was brought in, and an extra victim-witness resources officer was added.