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Chicago’s murder-clearance rate rose sharply in 2019, police say

More murders were cleared than in any other year in a decade, officials say. But more than half of the solved murders occurred prior to 2019.

Chicago police investigate a fatal shooting on March 31 in the 500 block of North Hamlin Avenue in East Garfield Park.
Chicago police investigate a fatal shooting on March 31 in the 500 block of North Hamlin Avenue in East Garfield Park.
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Chicago has turned around its perennially dismal rate at solving murders, according to statistics released Tuesday.

The city’s murder clearance rate in 2019 was about 53%, according to Chicago Police Department figures. In 2016, the clearance rate was just 29% — an improvement of more than 50% in three years, the department’s figures show.

The police said that in 2019 they “cleared more murders than in any of the past 10 years, with 263 murders cleared.”

The solve rate for a given year includes killings in that year and also from previous years. It’s the number the police department provides to the FBI for its national crime summary.

According to crime data the city puts on its website, only 21 percent of the 486 first-degree murders that were listed in 2019 through Dec. 23 had resulted in an arrest.

The Justice Department released a scathing report criticizing the Chicago Police Department in January 2017, in part taking issue with the low murder-clearance rates.
The Justice Department released a scathing report criticizing the Chicago Police Department in January 2017, in part taking issue with the low murder-clearance rates.
U.S. Justice Department

Police officials confirmed that 102 murders that happened in 2019 were cleared. They said 159 murders from prior years also were solved.

Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesman for the police, said the increase in the clearance rate is “the result of hiring more detectives and giving them technology to help with their investigations. The investments we are making in detectives are already showing gains.”

He said the department has about 1,180 detectives. The department had 969 detectives in March 2016.

In addition to hiring more detectives, the department is being reorganized to increase the number of detective offices throughout the city from three to five, which will shift more detectives to two offices that will reopen on the West Side and Northwest Side.

The move will reverse former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision in 2012 to close the Harrison and Grand Central detective offices to cut the city’s budget. The Harrison district is on the West Side, and Grand Central is on the Northwest Side.