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Clearing Up Homicide Clearance Rates

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Dated: April 2000 Pages: 2-7
Date Published
April 2000
6 pages
Publication Series
This article reports on the findings of a study to identify the factors that affected the clearance of homicides during 1994 and 1995.
The study examined 798 homicides in four cities. The cases were selected so that the proportion of open and closed homicide cases in the sample matched that of the entire homicide caseload for the study years for the city. This resulted in a total of 589 (74 percent) solved cases in the sample; 50 percent were solved within 1 week, and 93.2 percent were solved within 1 year. Two data collection instruments were used. The Homicide Attribute Coding Instrument provided a detailed description of the circumstances surrounding the homicide case, along with information regarding prior criminal records of victims and suspects, the relationship between victims and suspects, drug use by suspects or victims at the time of the incident, number of eyewitnesses, and suspected motivation for the homicide. The Investigative Instrument provided information on the process used by homicide detectives to investigate the cases, such as the status of the case, the number of detectives assigned to the case, the evidence found at the crime scene and the types of checks and tests performed on the evidence, whether search warrants were issued, who was interviewed, and what information was obtained by following up on the initial stages of the investigation. The study found that certain persistent factors are related to an agency's ability to clear homicide cases. These factors can be divided into two categories: police practices and procedures, and case characteristics. Findings suggest that a law enforcement agency's policies and practices can have a substantial impact on the clearance of homicide cases and can be increased by improving certain investigation policies and procedures that involve the actions take by the first officer on the scene, how quickly detectives arrive on the scene and the subsequent actions they take, and how many resources the agency dedicates to the investigation. Drug cases continue to be the most difficult for police to solve, but the results of the homicide clearance study show that even in drug cases, police response can lead to an arrest. 4 notes

Date Published: April 1, 2000