NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Dropping Homicide Rate Leads To More Cases Solved

February 3, 1999

One result of jailing criminals for longer periods is that the nation's murder rate has fallen dramatically. Consequently, police detectives have had more time to devote to current and past unsolved murder cases -- which has led to more cases being solved.

  • A 40 percent drop in murders and armed assaults in Atlanta over the past five years has allowed the city's police department to create a five-detective detail to work exclusively on solving old murders.
  • A 61 percent decline in murders in St. Louis over the past five years has enabled detectives to solve more of last year's cases -- and even solve one going back to 1989.
  • As homicides in San Diego fell from 167 in 1991 to 42 last year, one police squad has been reassigned to domestic violence and child abuse cases, and another to investigation of about 100 unsolved murders -- of which 20 have been closed in the last three years.
  • The proportion of murder cases solved in Dallas jumped from 49 percent in 1991 to 58 percent in 1997 -- and from 38 percent to 50 percent in New York City over the same period.

Detectives also say witnesses are more willing to come forward and help police identify killers now that the power of street gangs has diminished.

Cities are seeing a sharp drop in street murders and drive-by shootings stemming from drugs and gang disputes. Police say these are the hardest kinds of crimes to solve.

Source: Fred Bayles, "With a Little Breathing Room, Nation's Detectives Thriving," USA Today, February 3, 1999.


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