Boston is on its way to more homicides this year than in nearly a decade, but police have made arrests or identified suspects in fewer than 40 percent of those cases — significantly lower than last year, reports the Boston Globe. Boston has had 63 homicides, three of which fell under State Police jurisdiction. Boston police have cleared 23 of their 60 cases, either by arresting suspects, identifying them, or issuing warrants. The Boston police clearance rate last year for 41 homicides was more than 50 percent, police officials said. As of Dec. 1 last year, police had solved 21 of 34 homicides, or 62 percent. In previous years, the rate has been as high as 60 percent. Boston’s success in solving homicides so far this year is lower than the national average, which is above 60 percent. “It’s not a great clearance record,” said Lt. Kevin Foley, a police spokesman.
Experts said clearance rates tend to decline as homicides spike, in part because about the same number of detectives are chasing far more cases. “It’s a function of the surge in homicide and the nature of those homicides,” said James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University, who maintains the U.S. Department of Justice homicide database. “Gang killings, drive-by killings, random homicides are the most difficult to solve not just because there’s a lack of physical evidence, but also because of the unwillingness of many to come forward and share information, whether because of the fear of coming forward or the code of silence that creates that fear.” Spokesman Foley said some homicides are gang-related, “but most of our homicides are crimes of passion. Some of it is about kids feeling dissed. It’s absolutely not true that most are not solved because they are gang-related.” Local police and prosecutors say they are having trouble with a more basic key to solving crimes — witnesses.