Every 73 hours last year, someone in San Antonio was slain. By year’s end, police had cleared only about half of the 119 killings, leaving dozens of families desperate for answers and impatient for justice, says the San Antonio Express-News. As slayings in 2006 jumped by nearly a third over the previous year, the rate of cases solved dropped by a similar amount, making the department’s homicide clearance rate one of the lowest in the past decade. The city’s 11 homicide detectives struggled to keep up, solving a lower rate of cases than Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso, and Fort Worth, and below the national average.
Compared to counterparts in other cities, the detectives handled from almost double to more than 10 times the number of cases. The odds could be stacked against them. Unlike many departments, San Antonio detectives usually aren’t called out in the middle of the night to investigate fresh murder scenes. They reconstruct the details based on overnight reports left on their desks. “If people really knew how little resources are put toward these murders, I think some of the families would be a little upset,” said one San Antonio homicide detective who, like most interviewed, asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation from superiors. “But we just don’t have the manpower.” Police Chief William McManus, who declined repeated requests for an in-person interview, said via e-mail that the 50.4 percent clearance rate is “not where we would like it to be.” Those rates “vary from year to year and depend upon a number of factors regarding the complexity of each case,” he said.