The percent of cases that end with an arrest or identification of a suspect who can’t be apprehended fell to 59.4 percent in 2016, the lowest it’s been since the FBI has tracked the issue. “If we don’t address it, the issue is just going to get worse,” said Jim Adcock, a former coroner who started cold case Initiative to help police departments.
The national murder clearance rate—the percent of cases that end with an arrest or identification of a suspect who can’t be apprehended—fell to 59.4 percent in 2016, the lowest it’s been since the FBI has tracked the issue, reports USA Today. “If we don’t address it, the issue is just going to get worse,” said Jim Adcock, a former coroner who started the Mid-South Cold Case Initiative to help police departments looking to bolster their cold case units. Chicago, which cleared only 26 percent of homicides in 2016, is just one among many cities struggling to solve gun crimes. The problem has been exacerbated by politics, fear, a no-snitching philosophy mentality pervasive in some enclaves, diminished resources for law enforcement and discontent with policing in minority communities. Gangs fueling much of the violence have become less hierarchical. They have also become more perplexing for investigators to understand, said Peter Scharf, a Louisiana State University criminologist.
In cities like Baltimore, Chicago and New Orleans—which cleared under 28 percent of its homicide cases in 2016—the fracturing of gangs has added a difficult dimension for detectives. “It’s a national disaster,” said Scharf. “With every one of these weekends where you see multiple killed and even more wounded and few arrested, the gangs become more emboldened and the witnesses weaker in their conviction to step up.” Memphis, where Adcock is based, saw its homicide clearance fall to 38 percent in 2016. Cities like Boston have made headway. Between 2007 and 2011, the city solved 47.1 percent of homicides. After focusing on the issue, police improved the clearance rate to 56.9 percent. The department increased the amount of evidence analyzed by the crime lab and interviewed more witnesses promptly at crime scenes, say Anthony Braga, a Northeastern University criminologist, and Desiree Dusseault, deputy police chief of staff.