The Homicide Report

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How many murders are solved?

December 6, 2007 |  6:30 pm

HR has been conducting an in-depth survey to find out, reviewing so far about 330 homicides in Los Angeles County this year. According to the Homicide Report's analysis, the average rate at which these 2007 cases have been solved (or "cleared by arrest" in police lingo) is 39%.

Thank_you_for_catching_bad_guys Clearance rates vary widely by police units. They range from only one-fifth of all cases cleared in some areas of the county to more than three-fourths in others.

Of the 13 municipal-police homicide units and sheriff's teams surveyed so far, only two have managed to clear more than half of their cases this year.

One homicide unit--LAPD Newton in South-Central L.A.--has such a high clearance rate that its numbers distort the overall average. Without Newton, the clearance rate of the sample would drop to about 34%.

To put this another way, outside of Newton, about two out of three murderers in the countywide sample have gotten away with it -- so far, anyway.

Other units that have emerged in the top tier so far include LAPD Hollywood, Long Beach police and LAPD Northeast. Each has arrested suspects and obtained charges at significantly higher rates than is typical elsewhere in the county.

Arrest information is gradually being added to the posts on the site. The clearance survey continues. More to come.

Above, child's drawing displayed in the lobby of LAPD's Newton station.

(Clearance rates are the number of cases in which a suspect has been charged versus the number of criminal homicide cases investigated by a given homicide unit. HR's clearance rate calculation differs from that reported by law-enforcement agencies.

The HR count includes only 2007 homicides, and excludes citizen-justifiables, officer-involved shootings, cases in which a homicide determination is pending, and murder-suicides. Double and triple homicides are counted as single cases. Cases from the last two weeks are also excluded. A case is considered "cleared" if at least one suspect has been arrested and charged, or charged and a warrant issued. HR's findings may differ from those reported by law-enforcement agencies to the FBI because of these criteria. Law-enforcement agencies, for example, sometimes report clearance rates of more than 100% because they are counting cases cleared from prior years.)

(Photo by Geraldine Wilkins/LAT 2004)

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