Pittsburgh has recorded its 57th homicide of 2008 — the same number as last year’s total, putting the city on pace for the highest number of homicides in a decade, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. At the same time, police have seen a sharp drop-off in the number of arrests connected to homicides. The clearance rate was 46 percent for January to September, down from 75 percent for last year. The rate was 96 percent in 2004, when 43 of 45 homicide cases were cleared.
Of the victims, 50 were black and 47 died in gun violence. The average age was just over 28. Officials said there is no simple explanation for the increase in killings; nor is there one for the falling clearance rate. Many long-term problems are still in play, including a lack of two-parent households, easy access to guns and a reluctance for witnesses to come forward after a shooting. Other crime indicators show positive changes: The number of gun assaults in the city has dropped 17 percent this year, and the total number of gun crimes has fallen 5 percent. In other words, there have been fewer shootings in Pittsburgh this year. But the shootings that do occur are deadlier.