The percentage of murders being solved in the United States has hit such a low that killers now have a 50 percent chance of getting away with it.
Homicide clearance rates are now at the lowest point since 1980, over four decades ago.
“The FBI estimates only 54 percent of homicides were cleared through the arrest of the offenders in 2020, the lowest national clearance rate on record,” according to the non-profit Murder Accountability Project. “This decline is associated with nearly a 30 percent rise in homicides that year, the largest single-year increase on record.”
The situation has become so dire that America is at risk of becoming the first developed nation where the majority of murders go unsolved.
According to the Murder Accountability Project, much of this concerns the overwhelming number of cases that police departments are being saddled with.
“Homicide detectives nationwide are overloaded and overwhelmed by surging numbers of murders, resulting in unprecedented drops in homicide clearance rates,” the organization said.
In 2020, American police solved more murders than in any year since 1997 — but the volume of cases is too much for them to keep up.
“From 2019 to 2020, police across the United States solved 1,200 more murders, which is a 14 percent increase,” the Daily Mail reports. “However, in comparison to previous decades, murders have now risen twice as quickly and are at 30 percent – leading to a drop in cleared crimes as only one in every two murders are solved.”
Philip Cook, a public policy researcher at the University of Chicago Urban Labs, has studied clearance rates since the 1970s. He told the Marshall Project, a nonprofit organization that focuses on criminal justice, that the lower clearance numbers may not necessarily be a bad thing.
“It also could be that the standards for making an arrest have gone up and some of the tricks they were using in 1965 are no longer available,” Cook said of law enforcement tactics.
Peter Moskos, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, explained to the Marshall Project that low trust in police might result in communities and potential witnesses being less likely to speak to them, even when there is a horrible crime. He noted the obvious — without useful leads, police solve fewer murders.
Homicides of young Black and Latino men are the most likely to be left unsolved, David Bjerk, the Russell Bock professor of Public Economics at Claremont McKenna College in California, told The Guardian, noting that “other demographics have not seen the same or as notable declines.”
Last year, Bjerk published a study in which he found that the clearance of murders of “minority” men is 15-30 percentage points lower than that of any other racial demographic.
“I find that the likelihood a homicide is cleared by arrest is notably lower when the victim is a Black or Hispanic adult male and the homicide occurred in a more heavily minority neighborhood,” the study determined. “The unique finding to this study, however, is that I find no evidence that greater police budgets increase homicide clearance rates.”