Jun 042006

DNA. Carpet fibers. Fingerprints. Given the wealth of forensic information, you’d think police would solve each and every murder. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 2004, 62.6% of homicides were “cleared,” leaving a substantial portion of murder cases unresolved.The FBI’s official site says a crime is cleared when either an arrest is made or “elements beyond the control of law enforcement prevent the agency from arresting and formally charging the offender, by exceptional means.” We assume this refers to rare cases when, for example, suspects die before they can be charged.

In 2004, there were 16,137 cases of murder or nonnegligent manslaughter in the United States. Because 37.4% of these cases went uncleared, around 6,035 people “got away with murder” that year. Of course, this assumes each offender murdered only one person, which very likely isn’t true, but seeing as the cases are unsolved, this is our best guess. Anyway, while that number is disturbingly high, there is some good news. From 2003 to 2004, the number of murders fell 2.4% and violent crime in general is on a downswing.

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