Homicide clearance rates vary across Maryland

City homicide clearance rate trails national avg

BALTIMORE - Harford County authorities worked to solve 10 murders that occurred there in 2013 and 2014.

Ten were cleared. But not all of them were from the last two years.

Cristie Kahler, spokeswoman for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, said one of those homicide cases stemmed from a shooting from 1981, Kahler said.

The victim died of complications from the shooting in 2014, and the death was ruled a homicide, Kahler said.

Like other local police departments, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office uses the Uniform Crime Reporting standard to determine their clearance rates.

The standards were set up in 1929 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to meet the need for reliable uniform crime statistics for the nation, according to the FBI.  In 1930, the FBI took over collecting, publishing and archiving those statistics.

A law enforcement agency reports a clearance when a suspect has been arrested, charged and turned over to the court for prosecution. UCR also allows for cases to be cleared by exceptional means. That’s when officers encounter circumstances beyond their control that prohibit them from arresting and charging a suspect, such as the death of the offender or a victim’s refusal to cooperate.

Per UCR, a homicide counts in the year of the death and the clearances are counted in year of the clearance.

Baltimore County officials cited a recent example of this. Last November, a woman died in a fire; two months later, in January, the state Medical Examiner ruled her death a homicide. That homicide will be tallied with 2014’s statistics.

In Anne Arundel County, nine out of 10 homicides were closed in 2013, all from that calendar year, police department spokesman Lt. T.J. Smith said. This year, six out of eight homicides have been solved, all from 2014.

According to the FBI’s records for 2011, the most recent year for which statistics were available, 64.8 percent of murders and non-negligent manslaughter cases were cleared nationally.

Reporting to the FBI is voluntary, and not every local police agency participates, said Casey Shellenberger, a spokeswoman with the International Association of Chiefs of Police said.

“It is not a complete picture,” she said.

Elsewhere

According to the Baltimore City Police Department, the number of solved homicides has continued to increase annually. Between 2011 and 2013, it went from 48 percent to 50 percent.

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Milwaukee, a city about the size of Baltimore, had a clearance rate of 65 percent in 2013 and a clearance rate of 70 percent in 2012, said Lt. Mark Stanmeyer, a spokesman for the Milwaukee Police Department.

In 2013, there were 105 homicides, and 62 of them were cleared. Another six were cleared from prior years, bringing the total number of clearances for 2013 to 68.

The year before, there were 91 homicides and 52 of them were solved. Another dozen from previous years were cleared. 

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