Unsolved Murders: Expert says national clearance rates are ‘alarming,’ lower than average

Unsolved Murders: Expert says national clearance rates are "alarming," lower than average
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 9:08 PM EST
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(WFSB) - The I-Team is digging deeper into unsolved homicides.

First, we focused on New Haven, then looked at the picture in Hartford.

Now we’re examining nationwide numbers, and experts say they’re alarming.

A national non profit says any murder in the United States has a 50-50 chance of being solved, based on the most recent complete FBI data.

We wanted to learn why, especially during a time when that same data showed homicides are increasing nationwide.

Thomas Hargrove is the founder and chairman of the Murder Accountability Project, a non-profit which tracks unsolved murders nationwide.

He says murder clearance rates are at an all time low across the country.

“There are a growing number of places in America where most murders go unsolved,” says Hargrove.

A case is considered to be cleared when at least one person has been arrested, formerly charged with a crime and handed over to a court of law for a trial.

The national clearance rate is 54%, meaning little more than half of the country’s homicides get solved.

According to FBI data, it’s the lowest national clearance rate on record.

“It’s essentially a coin flip whether any individual murder will get solved,” says Hargrove. “Back in the 1960s we were clearing about 90% of our homicides.”

Over the last three years (between January 1, 2020, and today):

Hartford has cleared 57% of their 98 homicides.

Waterbury has cleared 87% of their 40 homicides.

New Haven has cleared 20% of their 65 homicides.

Hargrove says it comes down to resources.

“Although detectives are at the heart of an investigation, it’s also necessary forensic experts to go to the crime scene, necessary boots on the ground to do a neighborhood sweep, looking for witnesses and laboratory support,” says Hargrove.

The US Department of Justice recommends no more than 4 or 5 cases be assigned to a detective in any one year.

“When you see a city with a low clearance rate, the first thing you should ask is how many detectives do you have and are they following the no more than 4 or 5 case rule? A growing number of cities come nowhere close to that. They’re assigning double digit cases to a detective every year and that’s a recipe for disaster,” says Hargrove.

Hargrove says the Murder Accountability Project doesn’t take a position on anti-crime programs but thinks prevention can only help.

“I think it is important to try both approaches, to give adequate resources so that major crimes are cleared but also to try and change the environment in which crime occurred,” says Hargrove.