Homicide clearance rates: An examination of extralegal and evidentiary factors as influences to homicide solvability




Castro, Elsa L.

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According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) 2007 Uniform Crime Report, police departments nationwide enjoyed a 90% homicide clearance rate in 1960; however, these same departments are not seeing the same amount of success in the twenty-first century as clearance rates nationally were at 61% in 2006 (Keel, Jarvis, & Muirhead, 2009). To date the body of research on the correlates on homicide clearance rates is lacking and is generally divided between two competing frameworks. These both attempt to explain the factors that determine homicide solvability: 1) extralegal factors, i.e., victim demographics and lower socio-economic communities as the key factors influencing the solvability of a homicide and, 2) evidentiary factors such as location, weapon used, and victim/offender relationship as the determinate factors (McClellan, 2007). The current study will attempt to contribute to the existing literature on homicide clearance rates by exploring which of the above frameworks is more important in determining the solvability of homicides. Specifically, this research examines these factors by conducting a secondary analysis on homicide records from 2007 to 2010 obtained from the San Antonio Police Department. The findings of this study found that extralegal factors were not the most significantly related to homicide solvability. Given the serious nature of homicides, the results here suggest that police investigate all homicides equally regardless of any extralegal characteristics of the case.


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Criminal Justice