Up until this morning if anyone asked me how many unsolved murders there were in the United States, I would have had no idea. My guess would have been a few thousand and probably been on the high side. But due to a project I’m working on I did some research on that question. What I learned shocked me and I’m going to share it with you.
A January 2015 article by Thomas Hargrove of Scripps News (you can read the entire article at http://www.thedenverchannel.com/decodedc/how-many-unsolved-murders-are-there-its-greater-than-the-population-of-des-moines) begins with: “Think about this. More than 211,000 homicides committed since 1980 remain unsolved – a body count greater than the population of Des Moines, Iowa.”
Hargrove goes on to say: “Truth is homicides are less likely to be solved today than they were 40 years ago. Police fail to make an arrest in more than a third of the nation’s murders, resulting in an ever-increasing accumulation of cold cases.”
And an NPR piece by Martin Kaste on March 30 of that year explains in part: “If you’re murdered in America, there’s a 1 in 3 chance that the police won’t identify your killer.
“To use the FBI’s terminology, the national ‘clearance rate’ for homicide today is 64.1 percent. Fifty years ago, it was more than 90 percent.
“And that’s worse than it sounds, because ‘clearance’ doesn’t equal conviction: It’s just the term that police use to describe cases that end with an arrest, or in which a culprit is otherwise identified without the possibility of arrest — if the suspect has died, for example.”
After absorbing those stats I no longer wondered why Crime Wire was getting so many requests to profile or review cold cases. With a killer being identified in only a third of the murders and less than two thirds of cases being “cleared,” there are an awful lot of people out there wondering why their loved ones are dead and at whose hand.
What’s the reason for these disappointing numbers? I don’t think killers are any smarter. And, after all, the police are better trained; technology has seen great advancements over the years; security cameras are everywhere and DNA evidence is pretty much accepted as indisputable. You’d think the bad guys should be taking it on the chin, but obviously they aren’t.
When you compare those 211,000 unsolved murders to our overall population of over 300,000,000, they may sound insignificant. However, I suspect the families of the dead who are still seeking answers and justice would beg to differ.