Police in the U.S. were able to solve only 54% of murder cases in 2020, a problem that can be traced to officer shortages amid the pandemic and widespread anti-police demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter.
"The nation's police and sheriff's departments were overwhelmed and understaffed in 2020 to meet the surging demand for their investigative services," read sa report by the Murder Accountability Project, who analyzed the latest FBI data . "The challenges to law enforcement were complicated further by the COVID pandemic, by public outrage at the suffocation murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and by widespread demonstrations on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement."
The 2020 drop in case "clearance rates," the rate of homicides that result in the arrest of the offender, was the largest single year drop since the FBI began tracking the metric in 1965. It also represented the worst case clearance rate during the same time period, falling from a high of above 90% in 1965 to the new low of 54% in 2020.
The declining clearance rate comes at the same time that the U.S. has seen a surge of violent crimes and murders, with the 30% rise in homicides in 2020 also being the largest ever single-year increase on record.
The bulk of unsolved murders were in 130 major cities whose jurisdictions saw at least 10 homicides in 2020, with those cities seeing a murder rate more than three times the national average at nearly 23 murders per 100,000 population.
Murder Accountability Project Chairman Thomas Hargrove said much of the problem stems from a lack of support by elected officials for police departments, arguing that many local departments are not receiving enough resources to do their jobs amid the surge in homicides.
"The primary causes of declining clearance rates are a failure to give necessary resources to local police and a failure of political will by local elected leaders to make investigation of major crimes a priority," Hargrove said of the organization's findings. "When leaders make solving major crimes a priority, clearance rates usually improve and lives are saved."