Even as the Chicago Police Department touts technology-fueled successes in reducing the number of shootings in the city, detectives are struggling to solve killings, with their murder “clearance” rate falling to a level not seen since at least 1990.
In 2017, the police solved 114 of the 650 murders that occurred in that same year — just 17.5 percent, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of police data.
That appears to be the worst clearance rate in recent Chicago history for solving same-year killings.
The clearance rate was above 60 percent in the early 1990s.
In 2000, detectives were solving 41 percent of same-year murders.
By 2009, the same-year solve rate for murder had fallen to 30 percent amid an outcry from the police that a “no-snitch” code of silence among witnesses, and even victims, was making it difficult to make a murder arrest.
Since 2010, that figure has remained below 30 percent, falling to 19 percent in 2016 before falling even further last year.
Frank Giancamilli, a spokesman for the department, noted that CPD’s clearance rate was much higher when including old cases with 2017 cases.
“Officers and detectives alike strive every day to work together as part of the communities they serve to bring justice to victims,” Giancamilli said.
The picture is even worse for solving shootings that didn’t end in death. According to the University of Chicago Crime Lab, the Chicago Police Department cleared 11 percent of non-fatal shootings in 2013, 10 percent in 2014, 7 percent in 2015 and just 5 percent in 2016.
The police department’s bleak clearance rate could be one reason why Chicago had more murders than New York and Los Angeles — combined — in 2016.
“Public confidence in the criminal-justice system may have declined as community members saw those who committed acts of violence remain free,” according to a U. of C. Crime Lab report last year.
“Instead of formally seeking justice, some may have been encouraged to resort to retaliation, continuing the cycle of violence and further eroding trust in law enforcement,” the report said.
Explanations vary for Chicago’s low murder clearance rate.
Manpower is one.
In 2008, the police department had 1,252 detectives — and only 922 of them in 2016. In September 2016, Emanuel promised to hire 200 more detectives over the next two years, but those ranks won’t actually rise by that full number because of retirements.
Another explanation is the poor relationship between police and people who live in high-crime neighborhoods. That tension — and mistrust — grew even worse after the 2015 release of the police dash-camera video showing a police officer shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson says one of his biggest priorities is to repair that damage so that people will report crimes to the police.
Los Angeles Police Department officials have pointed to their robust community-policing program as a major factor in solving murders.
Charlie Beck, the Los Angeles police chief, was quoted last year in the Los Angeles Times, pointing to how the murder clearance rate in housing projects served by his department’s Community Safety Partnership was 81 percent.