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How Many People Actually Got Away with Murder?

The number of cold cases or cases that have not been fully resolved in the United States is at an all-time high. But does this mean people actually got away with murder?

According to UCR data, there are currently 250,000 unsolved murders in the United States, with an annual increase of about 6,000. With a 62 percent murder solution rate, that means 38 percent of the time, murderers get away with it.

What is the Probability of Getting Away with Murder in the United States?

One thing is for sure, the criminal justice system’s crime-solving rate is terrible and even worse for other crimes. 

The key take-away in the FBI’s latest data on crime in America is that there is a 40% chance that you can get away with murder. If you end up assaulting someone severely, there’s a 50% chance you’d get away with it, and if you dare commit any other crime, there is a high possibility that you will not be caught either.

From the crimes listed, murder is at its peak with about 61.6% of total crimes committed, and burglary at the lowest with 13.5%. These figures show the clear rate of property and violent crimes that are endorsed to the police but no arrests for them have been made. This may be due to a lack of evidence. 

These numbers only give us a glimpse of reality. In other communities, the murder clearance rate drops even lower.

Black victims, who accounted for the majority of homicides, were the least likely of any racial group to have their killings result in an arrest. While police arrested someone in 63 percent of the killings of white victims, they did so in just 47 percent of those with black victims.

The Washington Post

(Source: Vox)

Is There Any Hope for Cold Cases?

While most of the cases still remain unsolved the good news is that the crime and murder rates decreased significantly in 2017. The clearance rate is still low, which means there are still a lot of victims who did not get justice.

The clearance rate for murders and nonfatal shootings can fall even further down to single digits.

David Kennedy, Criminologist, John Jay College

(Source: Vox)

What Should the Police Do?

While it would be easy to say that the police should do better, it is not as simple as it may seem. According to a Pew Research Center Analysis, the murder clearance rate has been hovering around the 60% mark for years. 

This has dire consequences scholars call legal cynicism. When a crime goes unpunished, people are more likely to think that the government, especially the criminal justice system is not taking things seriously which causes a disconnection between the public and the authorities. 

In turn, people will be more apprehensive to report a crime which would lead to more crimes being committed. Criminals will take comfort in knowing they can get away with their acts, and will most likely commit them due to the lack of arrests.

Another angle is, that if people do not feel like the police are protecting them, they will take the law into their own hands. 

Take a bunch of teenage boys from the whitest, safest suburb in America and plunk them down in a place where their friends are murdered and they are constantly attacked and threatened. Signal that no one cares, and fails to solve murders. Limit their options for escape. Then see what happens.

Jill Leovy, Author, Ghettoside

(Source: Vox)

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