Posted on July 20, 2023

Homicide Clearance Rates Are Declining Across the US. Baltimore’s Is Down to 42%

WJZ, June 30, 2023

Baltimore has seen so much pain, with more than 1,500 people killed in the past five years. More than half of those killings remain unsolved.

WJZ, in collaboration with CBS News, is examining a crime often going without punishment in our country. The national homicide clearance rate is at an all-time low, according to FBI data. In the mid-1960s more than 90% of murders were solved, generally resulting in an arrest. By 1990, the percentage fell into the 60’s. Then, by 2020, as the number of homicides surged, the national clearance rate dropped to about 50% for the first time ever.

Our analysis with CBS News also discovered differences by race. The national homicide rate for white victims keeps improving. The rate of solving murders for Black and Hispanic victims is much lower.


{snip} A CBS News analysis of FBI homicide data shows Baltimore City’s average clearance rate from 2015 to 2019 was just 38.7%, hitting a low of 29.7% in 2015, the tumultuous year when Freddie Gray was killed in police custody and arrests plummeted.

The clearance rate in 2020 improved to 47%.

So far this year, it’s around 42% and remains below national averages.


In Baltimore City, the number of cleared homicides involving white victims has been higher than that for Black victims every year — except one — since 1995.

In 2016, only 11% of homicides involving Black victims were solved compared to 35.7% for white victims.

In 2020, 43.4% of homicides involving Black victims were cleared compared to 68.2% for white victims.

We asked the Baltimore police commissioner, “Why the disparity?”

“Here in Baltimore with over 90% of our victims being African Americans, we have an incredibly large case load, as you know. …We’re not working any harder or less hard on any specific case. We give 100% on all of them, but some of them have nuances to them that bring us directly to the perpetrator right away,” Commissioner Michael Harrison said.

In Baltimore, a number of homicides are cleared by what the law enforcement calls “exceptional” means, some because the suspect has died.

One example is the 2016 killing of up-and-coming rapper Lor Scoota. His alleged killer was gunned down in his vehicle just a few months later.


Police also have to deal with a culture where witnesses are often scared to talk.

In 2002, the Dawson family — including five children –was killed in their East Baltimore home in retaliation for calling police on a drug dealer.

And the infamous 2007 “Stop Snitching” video brought the underground message of witness intimidation into public view.


Baltimore prosecutors have secured 41 homicide convictions so far in 2022, according to data from the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.

During the two previous years, when the court system was hampered by the pandemic, there were 29 and 20 murder convictions in 2021 and 2020, respectively.

In 2019, before COVID, there were 86 homicide convictions, according to the state’s attorney’s office.