Spike in Killings ‘Backlogging’ Baltimore Police, Causing Drop in Clearance Rate

Kevin Rector, Baltimore Sun, June 10, 2015

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said the spike in killings in the city in recent weeks is “backlogging” investigators, resulting in a drop in the homicide clearance rate.

The police department has cleared 40 percent of the 128 murders in the city this year, as of Wednesday, a department spokeswoman said. That’s a 7.6 percentage-point decline from the department’s average for the previous four years.

There were 42 homicides in May alone, the most violent month in the city since 1990.

“Number one, we have a number of them that have taken place, so they’re a little backlogging us,” Batts said of the killings. “Number two, the community is not as engaged to give us information.”

Police have said they have been confronted by crowds of people filming their actions, particularly in the Western District, since unrest broke out in late April following the death of Freddie Gray, who sustained a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody.

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The homicide clearance rate, reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation annually by police departments across the country, measures the number of cases closed in relation to the total number of killings.

The Baltimore Police department had an average clearance rate over the past four years of 47.6 percent, according to police. In early April, prior to May’s spate of killings, there had been 54 homicides in the city and the department’s clearance rate stood at 53.7 percent.

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Based on the current drop in the rate, Batts said he asked his executive command staff to come up with “creative solutions” to solving killings despite having so many open investigations for police to address and a hesitance among community members to cooperate with police.

“We don’t expect the community to reach out to us,” he said. “We have to go out to the community and we have to start engaging and talking to them, much like we’re doing right now.”

He said he is also looking for solutions to the fact that there are currently 350 vacant patrol positions, based on officer suspensions, injuries and longterm leave.

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