WASHINGTON (TND) — New data shows that the number of homicides being solved is dropping across the country, leaving more families searching for answers while also exacerbating the already fractured relationship between the public and police.
The latest data shows the latest clearance rate — which in most cases only that means someone has been arrested and charged, not that there has been a conviction — is just around 50%. This makes the U.S. among the worst at solving murders in the industrialized world.
According to the New York Post, an analysis of data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed that 71% of homicides were considered solved in 1980. Criminal justice program The Marshall Project says since then, there’s been a long, steady drop, bringing the rate to a “historic low.”
In Ohio, the family of Jaleel Carter Tate is one of those left with grief, heartbreak and more than anything, questions about what happened to him.
It's just too hard. It just hurts so bad,” Tracy Tate, who lost two sons within a year to gun violence in Columbus, told WSYX.
Police in Columbus are trying to find justice for the victims of violent crime with a new approach, launching a website dedicated to thousands of unsolved homicide cases. Each homicide victim has his or her own profile, which includes a photo and personal information.
"I think it will help, I think it will help," said Tate, "I am willing to do anything right now to get answers."
The pain families feel as cases go on for years with no conclusion is frustrating to retired police officer Sgt. Betsy Smith, who is now the spokesperson for the National Police Association.
If you have decided to commit a homicide you have a 50% of getting away with it scott-free,” Smith said.
The Murder Accountability Project points to police underfunding. Smith, also blames the lack of trust between police and the people.
“It's the terrible combination of the vilification of police, the police departments in the country are short-handed and lack of experience,” she said.
Smith is among those who say the contentious relationships between police and communities is leading to higher crime but few tangible solutions have been offered up to solve the issue.
I think race is still on the table when a culture of policing, historically, has treated those from different groups differently. Even when the individuals are from that same group, that culture can still exist and we have to zero in on it, being honest about it and making sure that we properly train police for the realities of the cities that they are policing in," New York City mayor Eric Adams said following the brutal police killing of Tyre Nichols.
The murder of Nichols by five Memphis police officers reignited the long-standing debate over police reform, de-escalation and diversity training. It's part of an often-observed negative loop built on mutual mistrust: communities that experience high crime often don't want to interact with police, leading to lower clearance rates, and due to the lack of information community members are willing to provide police, officers are unable to achieve arrests and less inclined to pursue investigations.
One study published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies found the clearance rate for the homicides of minority men — young men like Jaleel Tate — was 15-30 percentage points lower than that of any other racial demographic.
It’s important to note that clearances don't always lead to prison time. A 2009 report from the Department of Justice found in the 75 largest counties, nearly one-third of people accused of murder were acquitted or had their charges dismissed. That's the most recent year with that data available on a national level.