As former mayor Michael Bloomberg was sure to note on his way out, New York City’s murder rate reached a historic low in 2013: 334 people were killed, fewer than any year since the NYPD began keeping track in the sixties. But, even though the police now have a relatively small number of homicides to handle, the percentage of cases where an arrest is made within twelve months of the crime (referred to as the “clearance rate”) has actually decreased, according to analysis by the New York Daily News. While the clearance rate was 80 percent by the end of the nineties, it now averages about 70 percent. The percentage of homicides solved has also declined: “In 2000, the NYPD closed the books on 533, including murders that occurred during previous years,” the Daily News notes. “In 2012, that number was 314 — a 41% decrease.”
Detectives Endowment Association head Michael Palladino suggested that the lower clearance rate is linked to the NYPD’s assigning investigators formerly dedicated to major felonies such as murder to “newly prevalent” crimes such as identify theft and petty larceny and the counter-terrorism unit. Former police commissioner Ray Kelly disputes that, telling the Daily News, “The homicide squads are always pretty well staffed. As a matter of fact they do other things because the number of murders is way down…That’s just the way it is. There are … certain homicides that will never be solved. We don’t necessarily want to make that public, but that’s just the way it is.”
But it certainly seems that a murder has a better chance of being solved if it happens Manhattan. At the very least, the Daily News found that the NYPD will devote a lot more resources to finding the killer. In 2013, Brooklyn had the highest number of unsolved murders (77), while Manhattan had the second-lowest (15). However:
Manhattan South’s homicide squad has 10 detectives to assist precincts in murder investigations, according to a police source familiar with staffing levels, despite only 10 murders in its jurisdiction in 2013 — one case per detective. Brooklyn North’s homicide squad has 17 detectives, despite a whopping 86 homicides in its jurisdiction — five cases per detective.
The explanation former Bronx cold-case unit commanding officer Joseph Giacalone gave the Daily News probably will not surprise you: “Manhattan is treated differently than the outer boroughs because that’s where the money is.” Meanwhile, “Roughly 86% of homicides involving a white victim have been solved compared to 45% involving a black victim and 56% involving a Hispanic victim.” See the paper’s full review (and some interactive maps) here.