CHICAGO — Illinois is last in the nation in catching killers, according to a new study.
Only 37 percent of the state's 756 homicides last year were "cleared," meaning an arrest and charges have been made in the case — or the suspected killer died, according to the Murder Accountability Project. That represents a 10 percent drop from 2014's clearance rate of 47.5 percent, the group said.
Nationwide, nearly 62 percent of homicides were cleared, according to the Murder Accountability Project's latest study.
"Illinois is badly underperforming when it comes to catching killers," group Chairman Thomas K. Hargrove said in a statement. "But since few people realize this, there is little hope that the public will demand change or that city, county and state leaders will monitor the problem and effect solutions."
The problem is made worse by Chicago's gun crime epidemic and the police department's difficulties in clearing cases. The department has lost 330 detectives while murders and shootings have surged in recent years.
But Chicago actually has a higher clearance rate than some Illinois cities, the study shows.
Whereas the Chicago Police Department cleared 30 percent of last year's 480 homicides, East St. Louis had a rate of 26 percent, Joliet cleared 11 percent and Rockford cleared 15.8 percent, according to the study.
Illinois State Police had the worst clearance rate of any agency in the state, with only one arrest in 18 homicide investigations for a clearance rate of 5.6 percent, the group said.
State Police have also made it difficult to determine clearance rates in the state, the group said. The agency stopped reporting homicide clearance data to the FBI in 1994, making Illinois the only state that doesn't report the data.
It is voluntary to report the data to the FBI, a state police spokesperson told the watchdog group.
For other states, the Murder Accountability Project was able to take the FBI's data on clearance rates. But for Illinois, the group had to file freedom of information requests with 102 individual cities and police departments; 10 did not respond, the group said.
"What agency would not want to voluntarily cooperate with the nationwide collection of homicide data?" Murder Accountability Project vice Chairman Eric. W. Witzig said in a statement. "We need to measure our closure successes in order to identify areas needing improvement on the route to increased closure rated."
Acknowledging the city's low clearance rate in the fall, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said the department will hire 200 new detectives, along with hundreds of other officers to combat Chicago's skyrocketing murder and shooting rates.
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