Roughly half of the homicides committed in the United States go unsolved, according to various reports.
FBI data analyzed by the Murder Accountability Project and the Marshall Project revealed that in 2020, the rate of homicides that were solved dropped precipitously from years past to roughly 50%. The FBI reported 71% of homicides were solved in 1980. The Murder Accountability Project stated that before 1980, the rate of homicides that were solved stood as high as 90%.
“We’re on the verge of being the first developed nation where the majority of homicides go uncleared,” Thomas Hargrove, founder of the Murder Accountability Project, informed The Guardian.
The Murder Accountability Project attributed the lower rate of homicides being solved to the soaring rate of homicides. It also opined that “the nation’s police and sheriff’s departments were overwhelmed and understaffed in 2020 to meet the surging demand for their investigative services.”
“You hear every cop saying, ‘We can’t do better because they don’t cooperate,’” retired homicide detective John Skaggs stated.
“If people criticize the police constantly, it is natural that people would be less willing to talk to police,” Professor Peter Moskos of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said.
Different metrics are used for considering a homicide solved; generally, it involves arresting and charging a suspect and sending them to the court to be prosecuted, but the FBI also considers the case solved when a suspect is being tried in another court for another crime, The New York Post reported.
Additionally, at least 400 murders considered solved in 2020 did so through “exceptional means,” in which cases police felt they had secured enough evidence but could not make an arrest because the suspect had either died, was unable to be extradited, or prosecutors had refused to press charges.
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“The Murder Accountability Project firmly believes declining homicide clearance rates are the result of inadequate allocation of resources — detectives, forensic technicians, crime laboratory capacity, and adequate training of personnel,” Murder Accountability Project Chairman Thomas Hargrove stated. “This represents a failure of political will by local leaders.”
“Is the murderer in my neighborhood? Will I run into them at the grocery store? Or when I’m pumping gas?” Jessica Pizzano, director of victim services at Survivors of Homicide, Inc., asked. “These are real fears that families live through. … They just want that person to never, ever do that to another family again.”