NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Growing Backlog Of Unsolved Murder Cases

February 22, 2000

The good news is that the number of murders committed in the U.S. has dropped dramatically in recent years. The bad news is that the number of unsolved killings has been on the rise.

  • The nationwide solution rate for cases stood at 69 percent in 1998 -- having declined from 86 percent in 1968, according to the FBI.
  • The latest figures, however, represent an improvement over the 64 percent solution rate for 1994.
  • There are now 6,068 unsolved killings on the books.
  • Experts say that murder has moved out of the home where it was once the most likely place to occur, and is now being committed more by strangers than by family members or friends -- a development which makes solving cases more difficult.

Criminologists also report that murderers have become more sophisticated -- with some even becoming skilled at destroying DNA evidence. Moreover, police say witnesses are much less willing to come forward with their accounts or testify in trials.

Unsolved homicide rates are highest if the victim is 65 or over, male, was the victim of a gang or lived in a large city.

Source: Laura Parker and Gary Fields, "Unsolved Killings on Rise," and "Her Killer Walked Away," USA Today, February 22, 2000.


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