Boston police are beefing up their homicide unit to help reverse a precipitous decline in the number of homicide arrests, says the Boston Globe. The case clearance rate this year that is the lowest in at least a decade. While the city is on its way to setting a 10-year high in homicides, the department has cleared 38 percent of its 60 cases so far by making arrests, issuing warrants, or identifying suspects. The clearance rate was 64 percent last year and 53 percent overall from 1994 through last year.
Deputy Superintendent Daniel Coleman is proposing additional detectives to the unit’s staff of 18 investigators, as well as enhancing computer technology that will make it easier to integrate information gathered by the homicide, drug, and gang units. Baltimore, a city comparable in size to Boston and where 271 people have been slain so far this year, has 80 homicide detectives and supervisors. In Chicago, where the homicide clearance rate has risen from 40 percent last year to 48 percent so far this year, police are trying a new approach to get witnesses to cooperate. “One thing we’re doing is, for gang-related shootings that happen in areas of open-air drug markets, we’ll have narcotics detectives go out and do buy busts and then interview the people we’ve arrested to see if they know anything about the homicide,” said David Bayless, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department. Cliff Karchmer of the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C., said Boston’s problem with clearing homicide cases is not atypical. “Thirty-eight percent in the middle of a gang war and gang retaliatory violence is not really unusual,” Karchmer said. He said Washington, D.C., Kansas City, and Minneapolis had had similar experiences.