Editorial: Solve more crimes: The NYPD clearance rates need to rise

Tribune Content Agency

There are many measures of how well a city promotes safety and justice: crime rates, relations between police and the community, the treatment of those jailed and more. An essential indicator that gets far too little attention is clearance rates — the percentage of offenses where cops make an arrest. And it’s worrying that the NYPD rates have fallen sharply. A crime unsolved is justice undone, a victim or surviving family still treading water in a swamp of fear and disillusionment.

The more serious the crime, the more important that cops figure out who did it and courts then hold the perpetrator responsible. In 2021, there were 488 homicides, but just 56% of the homicide cases were solved, down from 64% in 2020 and 71% in 2019. In 2022, the homicide count dropped and the share of cases cleared went up, to 64%. That’s progress, but it still means hundreds of people were murdered without their killer getting caught.

Meanwhile, 2022 clearance rates were just 43% for shootings and 29% for major crimes overall.

Behind every unsolved crime is an agonizing family like Beverly Ford, whose correction officer son John Jeff was shot and killed outside a party in Queens in August 2020. “It’s been a long time, but it feels like yesterday,” she told the Daily News in a profile published Monday. Or Janifer Taylor, mother of Dawn Peterson, a 39-year-old mother killed in Jamaica, Queens, in 2021. Or Natasha Christopher, mother of Akeal Chirstopher, 14, hit by a stray bullet in Brooklyn in 2012. The longer it takes, the likelier the trail of evidence and witnesses will go cold.

There is no single, simple solution here. Two obvious ones: More of those who know about unsolved crimes should come forward — anonymously if they wish — by calling Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. The NYPD should bulk up its detective bureau, which has shrunk from about 7,400 in 2001 to 5,167 at present.

Solve more crimes, build more trust and bring the possibility of peace to more victims and families.