Baltimore County, Md., police claim a 100 percent homicide clearance rate last year, about double the figure from the city of Baltimore, the Baltimore Sun reports. While urban and suburban homicide units face dramatically different realities and challenges, Baltimore County stands out even among its suburban peers. Across Maryland, the homicide clearance rate is 61 percent. Random acts of violence are rare in the county. Gangs — whose codes of silence are hard to break — are less prevalent as well. Baltimore County has also won national attention for a set of novel investigative policies that officials say have helped them capture more killers. Police Chief James Johnson said the low homicide rate and high clearance numbers reflect the work of his agency and the cooperation of the community. “It’s about who you hire, how you educate them, how you constantly evolve, developing their skills, putting the right people in the right position,” he said.
A recent U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance report cited several policies as models for other agencies. For instance, the county assigns the beat officer who initially responded to the call to the homicide unit’s investigation to offer expertise about the scene or the neighborhood. The report also noted that the department records all investigative interviews. Those recordings can be played for jurors in court, and can be helpful if witnesses become reticent or change their stories before trial. Baltimore city — where witnesses often recant or are reluctant to testify — has begun using a similar tactic in serious crimes.