Homicide Clearance Rates Continue Their Decline

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By one important measure, there’s less justice in Kansas City than there used to be. The number of cases “cleared” by police is on the decline. Clearing a case typically means making an arrest. Law enforcement agencies have different standards for determining whether a case is cleared, but a clearance rate is generally regarded as the best barometer of whether police are solving murders, The Trace reports. In 2011, Kansas City police resolved 73.9 percent of homicide cases; last year the rate was only 49 percent. Kansas City’s struggles are reflective of a broader trend that experts say could have dire implications for public safety. Police are solving fewer murders than they were five years ago, an analysis of FBI data and statistics provided by departments shows.

Nationally, the homicide clearance rate fell from 64.8 in 2011 to 61.5 in 2015. In many urban areas, declines were sharper. In Baltimore, which has the second-highest U.S. homicide rate, 36.7 percent of killings were cleared in 2016, down from 46.4 percent in 2011. In Chicago, which recorded more homicides last year than any other city, police closed one in six murder cases last year. As of January 1, 2016, at least 25,000 homicide cases from the previous five years remained unsolved, according to FBI data collected by the Murder Accountability Project. Each homicide results in at least four surviving family members, which adds up to 100,000 mothers, fathers, brothers, or sisters left wondering who took their loved ones away. “Low clearance rates mean people have low confidence in the police, which leads to reluctance to cooperate, which leads to low clearance rates,” said criminologist David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “At the same time, low clearance rates mean that there isn’t legal accountability for serious violence, which leads people to take things into their own hands, which leads to high levels of violence and low clearance rates. It’s a spiral of decline.”

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