Homicide Clearance Rates Continue to Fall in the U.S.
The FBI just recently released the 2016 Uniform Crime Report statistics and it shows the Homicide Clearance rate continues to fall. In 2016, law enforcement only closed 59.4% of the 17,250 homicides recorded. That means that 7,006 homicides were still open when 2017 began. There was an increase of 8.8% increase in homicides in 2016 which comes on the heels of a particularly bad 2016. Homicides are up 19.6% in the past two years.
Why Clearance Rates Matter
How bad is the problem? There are actually two problems that come with lower clearance rates. First, the more cases that go unsolved, the greater likelihood of further victimization. I wouldn’t be surprised if homicides are up again in 2017. Second, homicides aren’t closed unless there is an arrest. This means that detective’s caseloads will continue to swell, making them even less productive. In 1995, the FBI reported that the Homicide Clearance Rate was 65% and now it is at 59.4%. A 65% clearance rate in 2016 would mean an additional 966 homicides cleared.
Have a Plan
The plan for police executives should be two-fold. First, executives need to seriously consider starting a cold case unit if they don’t have one already. If they have one, ensure that their only job is to work on cold cases. Cold case investigations are not part-time cases nor can they be done effectively while catching other cases. A cold case investigator should only work on cold cases. Second, executives should institute robust training programs for both investigators and patrol officers. Patrol cops are often the forgotten partners in closing cases, but they often make or break the case. It may be a good move to hire outside consultants to conduct the training. Outside instructors bring a wealth of knowledge.
Where do we go from here?
I’m not from the camp that a nearly 20% increase in homicides is not a trend. As a matter of fact, it’s not just murder that is up. Violent crime is up for the second consecutive year (see chart to the left). Violent crimes include rape, felony assault, and robbery. I think we will see a continued increase in violent crime going forward. If homicide statistics like we are seeing in places like Chicago and Baltimore, the future looks ugly. The question is, have we bounced off the bottom and are going straight up?
Access the entire 2016 Uniform Crime Report