Report: National Homicide Clearance Rate Falls to 50% Down From 71% in 1980 as Crime Epidemic Spirals

Homicide clearance rates have plunged to their lowest levels in decades as America’s crime epidemic spirals. According to an analysis of FBI data by the Marshall Project and Murder Accountability Project, only 51% of murders in America are being cleared, down from a rate of 71% in 1980. Despite massive advancements in forensic technology over the past four decades, the U.S. is now on the cusp of backsliding to a point where most murders go unsolved.

“We’re on the verge of being the first developed nation where the majority of homicides go uncleared,” said Thomas Hargrove in an interview with The Guardian. Hargrove is the founder of the Murder Accountability Project, which tracks unsolved homicide cases in America.

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According to his group, a homicide is most often “cleared” when a suspect is arrested, charged, and handed over to the court to be prosecuted. But now, clearance rates are dramatically declining year after year.

While police solve more murders overall compared to decades prior, the sheer scale of America’s homicide problem means that detectives can no longer keep pace. Law enforcement was able to solve 1,200 murders between 2019 and 2020—a 14 percent increase—, but overall clearance rates dropped regardless.

According to researchers, major cities such as Detroit, St Louis, New Orleans, and Milwaukee are experiencing the largest explosions in violent crime. According to a report by the Daily Mail, Kansas City saw as many as 15 murders per 100,000 residents in 2022.

According to the Murder Accountability Project, murders are also dramatically underreported by local law enforcement departments. In 2021, local agencies reported 14,715 homicide cases, compared to the Centers for Disease Control, which estimated there were 25,988 murders that year.

Additionally, the Project reports that the decline in clearance rates is not uniform across all ethnicities. According to their analysis, 100 percent of the decrease in homicide clearance involves cases where the victim was African American. Their reporting showed that clearance rates remained steady, and in some cases even improved, for white, Asian, and Native American victims.

“Declining homicide clearance rates are the result of inadequate allocation of resources… detectives, forensic technicians, crime laboratory capacity, and adequate training of personnel,” Hargrove said.

The group attributed the decline in clearance rates to budget cuts suffered after the 2020 George Floyd riots and the “Defund the Police” movement.

“We believe that the issue is the lack of resources that police departments have been on a slow starvation diet over the last 50 years because major cities are becoming increasingly broken relative to the demand for services they have,” Hargrove said in an interview with the Daily Caller.

“Number two is that there is a growing disconnect between police and the communities that they serve, especially in African American communities. And that lack of cooperation and trust or belief that leads are legitimate is a very real impediment to clearing major crimes like homicide.”

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The U.S. murder rate jumped by 30% between 2019 and 2020. Analysts have variously attributed the explosion in homicide to the effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns and the slashing of police budgets following the Black Lives Matter riots.


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