Most Murders Go Unsolved in Many Cities

The homicide clearance rate in Columbus was only 34 percent as of this week. The reasons are not entirely clear, but a lack of cooperation from witnesses is one of them.

Columbus, Ohio, police have only a 34 percent homicide clearance rate so far, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Of the 80 killings as of Monday morning, police have made arrests in 22 cases and closed five more through “exceptional clearance,” for example, if a killing is ruled self-defense or if the suspect is killed. In 2015, the FBI’s national average for homicide clearance rate was 61.5 percent. The reasons for a low clearance rate vary. Detectives cite a lack of cooperation from witnesses, a double-digit spike in homicides, which has taxed limited resources, and the turnaround time at the lab that can sometimes delay an arrest.

Nationally, the clearance rate has declined since the 1960s, when it hit more than 90 percent. “It does appear homicide clearances are becoming rarer,” said Thomas Hargrove of the Murder Accountability Project. “I’m afraid Columbus is joining a number of cities where most murders go unsolved.” Experts have cited the Ferguson effect as one reason. Tensions with minority communities have worsened as controversial videos surface showing officers using excessive force. “There has been a growing disconnect between police and the community they serve,” Hargrove said, resulting in a lack of trust, communication and participation. “All of that negatively affects clearance rates,” he said. Columbus Police Commander Michael Gray said the Ferguson effect is not an issue in Columbus. “You’re going to have people in the community who don’t trust the police, but the [police department] does a good job of garnering community trust,” he said.