CHICAGO — In 2015, the percentage of murders solved by Chicago Police tumbled to a near-record low, and gunmen who shot and wounded people escaped charges 94 percent of the time, a DNAinfo Chicago analysis of police data shows.
Chicago’s homicide total hit 472 last year, and detectives solved just 123 of those cases — a 26 percent clearance rate, according to the data.
That’s nearly a 3 percentage point drop in murder clearances compared to 2014, when police solved 28.6 percent, or 119, of that year’s 416 murders.
Last year's decline in the percentage of solved murders that occurred during the same year was 1 percentage point higher than the 25 percent clearance rate in 2012 — the lowest rate in more than two decades, police data shows.
Detectives had even less success solving the 2,021 nonfatal shootings in Chicago last year. Only 9.5 percent of those shootings were “cleared” by detectives.
But of those cleared cases only 126, or about 6 percent, lead to charges against shooters, the data shows.
The other 67 cases were “cleared exceptionally,” which means police know who the shooter is but are unable to make a case to bring charges; the state’s attorney wouldn’t bring charges; a victim refused to testify after identifying a shooter; or the offender was dead.
The reason for Chicago’s continued struggles solving shootings and murders remains the “no-snitch” code of silence on the street that hinders investigations, police officials said.
While police did not respond to questions about the low clearance rates, a spokesman offered a written statement via email.
“Arresting and charging criminals requires the relentless commitment of not only police officers but victims, witnesses, and community members providing information that is vital to leads and building a strong case. Chicago Police never close the file on an unsolved murder,” the spokesman wrote.
“When key parties fail to promptly provide police with crucial details that would expedite the clearance of a case, detectives continue to invest time and resources into attempting to locate witnesses or evidence to bring closure to a case. When key parties choose to pursue justice independent of police involvement, retaliatory crimes further contribute to the demands on police and investigators.”
In 2015, the Police Department solved 104 murders that occurred in previous years, which brought the department’s overall clearance rate to 48 percent — a 3 percentage point drop from 2014, police data shows. That’s more than 14 percentage points lower than the national average, according to the most recent FBI statistics released in 2012.
Still, not all of the 227 murders cleared by police last year led to charges. In 70 cases, the homicides were cleared exceptionally, police data shows.
Police did not provide data related to how many of the 123 homicide clearances related to murders that occurred in 2015 were cleared exceptionally.
In 2013, police did a much better job solving murders, thanks to adding 72 investigators to the detective division. Police did not provide information about current detective division staffing levels or declined to make current Chief of Detectives Eugene Roy available for an interview or to respond to questions.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department plans to announce the promotion of 100 new sergeants and captains on Friday, followed by a round of lieutenant promotions and the addition of new detectives to "keep up with attrition."
In the emailed statement, Chicago police officials stated the department also has “initiated several actions” that aim to solve more shootings and murders.
One of those actions “ensures all gun arrests are processed by detectives,” a move that police say ensures cases are investigated “from beginning to end … taking every step that best enables a case to be solved, including attempts to immediately locate and interview parties” and allows arresting officers to return to the street while detectives handle investigations, according to the statement.
Additionally, police say they “have called upon new ways of strengthening relationships with local and federal partners” to prosecute more gun cases and gain access to “the deeper level of resources available at the federal level,” according to the statement.
Currently, the Police Department is the target of a U.S. Justice Department civil “pattern and practice investigation” in response to the fatal police-involved shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The federal probe aims to determine if police officers here have been involved in a pattern of violating citizen civil rights.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: