This week, NPR aired a two-part audio story "Open Cases: Why One-Third Of Murders In America Go Unresolved." If you're murdered in America, there's a 1 in 3 chance that the police won't identify your killer. Criminologists estimate that at least 200,000 murders have gone unsolved since the 1960s, leaving family and friends to wait and wonder. This story looks at the reasons for unresolved murder cases in America.
Charles Wellford, professor emeritus with the Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, provided several insightful comments for the article. Here are a few of his comments.
University of Maryland criminologist Charles Wellford points out that police are still very effective at clearing certain kinds of murders.
"Take, for example, homicides of police officers in the course of their duty," he says. On paper, they're the kind of homicide that's hardest to solve — "they're frequently done in communities that generally have low clearance rates. ... They're stranger-to-stranger homicides; they [have] high potential of retaliation [for] witnesses." And yet, Wellford says, they're almost always cleared. What that tells Wellford is that clearance rates are a matter of priorities.
Wellford says Americans should also understand that while the national rate is in the 60s, the local rates vary widely. But because the FBI doesn't publish local agencies' numbers, these differences are often invisible to the public.
To listen or read the full story, click on NPR Open Cases: Why One-Third of Murders in America Go Unresolved.