Pittsburgh is on track to have another deadly year. The recent homicide rates, combined with a solution rate of less than half so far this year, have attracted the attention of federal authorities, who sent a group of researchers to the city to study its homicide unit and suggest ways to improve it, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh is one of two cities selected so far for the federally-funded program. The other is Baltimore, which saw its highest number of killings in 40 years last month, weeks after Freddie Gray died in police custody, prompting protests and rioting. Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay said he is “looking at everything” that can be done to try to curb the killings and improve the solve rate.
The city's homicide rate drew attention last year, when 66 people were killed, the highest number since 2008. Of the 18 killings so far this year, eight have been solved through arrests or other extenuating circumstances. That's about 44 percent. The national average for “clearing” homicides was about 64 percent in 2013. The chief has been looking for ways to increase the collaboration between patrol officers and detectives working in the neighborhood stations and homicide detectives. McLay expects other ideas to come out of work done by the Police Executive Research Forum, which will send a team of experts, which includes seasoned homicide investigators, to each city to study their case files and interview people involved in the homicide responses, ranging from emergency dispatchers, patrol officers who are often the first to arrive on scene, to the homicide detectives responsible for the follow-up investigations.