Witnesses to violent crimes refuse to cooperate in investigations with such regularity that their silence is driving down the rate of solved murders. A survey of 76 police agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum reported by USA Today says that 78 percent cited a decreased willingness to testify among witnesses, and 45 percent reported a drop in the rate of solved cases. As violent crime plunged during the past decade, the murder clearance rate dropped – from a high of 69 percent in 1998 to 60 percent in 2006, say data compiled by the FBI.
Among cities in which police cite persistent problems with witness cooperation Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan says investigators encounter reluctant witnesses in 30 percent of murder investigations and more than 50 percent of other violent crime inquiries. In Washington, D.C., incidents of witness intimidation were up 45 percent last year. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis says witnesses’ fear of retaliation was directly related to low murder clearance rates that hovered near 38 percent in 2006.