Posted on May 8, 2023

More Than Half of American Murders Go Unsolved: FBI Data

Audrey Conklin, Fox News, May 3, 2023

U.S. homicides are increasing — and more than half are going unsolved, according to FBI data.

Out of 21,570 homicides reported to the FBI in 2020, 54% went unsolved, an analysis by the Murder Accountability Project (MAP) nonprofit shows.

That was the last year the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) recorded unsolved homicide numbers due to a drop in law enforcement agencies reporting that data to the Bureau in 2021, according to Thomas Hargrove, MAP founder.

“[CJIS] decided not to make an estimate for 2021. It would have been quite similar, however,” Hargrove told Fox News Digital, adding that MAP’s research suggests the clearance rate would still be around 54% if it were up-to-date.

The clearance rate has been steadily dropping since the 1960s, when more than 90% of homicides were solved. The clearance rate was over 66% in 2010 and 61% in 2019.

The decreasing clearance rate is compounded with an increase in homicides since 2020, when the FBI recorded a 30% increase in U.S. homicides overall — the largest single-year increase ever recorded, according to MAP. In 2021, U.S. homicides reached a nearly 25-year high, when the FBI reported 6.9 murders per 100,000 people – just 0.5 lower than the 1996 murder rate of 7.4, according to data examined by analyst Jeff Asher and shared with the New York Times.

Hargrove pointed to two primary issues causing more and more homicides to go unsolved.

Funding the police

“First, police lack the resources to be able to handle the caseload for major crime. The proof of that is how low the clearance rate is. There simply aren’t enough boots on the ground to properly investigate and prosecute offenders. It’s been that way for a while. Local governments increasingly are broke,” he explained.

The second leading cause, according to Hargrove, is a contentious relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve, particularly in the aftermath of George Floyd‘s 2020 murder.

Procedural justice

“This is not, in our opinion…any kind of unwillingness by police to solve African-American murders. It’s an effect of a broken relationship between the police and the communities they serve,” Hargrove said. “There is a tremendous disconnect among citizens.”

There is a feeling that police are not to be trusted.

— Thomas Hargrove

In criminal justice, experts use the term “procedural justice” to explain why some people do not “participate in law enforcement” if they assume they will not be treated fairly — an issue that became more prominent after Floyd’s murder, Hargrove said.

Last year, MAP reported that Black communities, particularly those in urban areas, borne 100% of the drastic decrease in the U.S. homicide clearance rate. Clearance rates for White, Asian-American and American Indian victims remained steady or improved over time, researchers found.

Hargove pointed to Philadelphia as a prominent example, with only 42% of homicides cleared in 2020.