The New York homicide total dropped last year to a level not seen in more than 40 years, but fewer than half the killings were solved, Newsday reports. The 49.4 percent clearance rate through Dec. 12 is the product of a number of factors, most notably detectives pulled from their normal assignments to deal with terror threats or provide protection for visiting dignitaries. At the same time there has been a surge in retirements by veteran detectives, with those still on the job saddled with heavier caseloads.
In a good year, big-city police departments solve 55 to 65 percent of homicides. The New York City homicide clearance rate is typically about 70 percent. Police officials rarely cite the clearance rate. An exception was then-Police Commissioner Howard Safir, who in 1998 said New York had set an all-time department record, with a 92.5 percent clearance rate. Safir, however failed to note the difference between arrests for 1998 cases and those for other years. The actual citywide clearance rate for that year’s homicides was 54.9 percent.