On July 22, the online news agency the New Mexico Sun published the guest column “APD’s stated 97% clearance rate for homicides in 2022 is misleading. Below is the guest column followed by the link:
HEADLINE: APD’s stated 97% clearance rate for homicides in 2022 is misleading.
By Pete Dinelli
“On May 19 and July 19, APD officials proclaimed they had a 97% homicide clearance rate for 2022 with 47 suspects arrested, charged or identified in 40 recent and past homicide cases. The 97% figure is very misleading.
What the 97% figure actually represents are the murder investigations done for a 5-month period and only involves those murder cases actively being investigated by APD during that time period. It does not involve all pending murders investigation that are in suspension and that must be investigated and that are classified as still pending or unsolved.
The 47 arrests actually represent only 20% of the 184 homicides that occurred between January 1, 2020 and May 21, 2022. The 97% percentage simply does not track with the clearance rates delineated in APD performance budget measures nor with the manner and method used by the FBI .
According to the 2020, 2021 and 2021 APD approved city budget, following are APD’s homicide clearance rates for the years 2016 to 2021:
2021: 37% (reported as estimated actual)
On January 20, 2022, it was reported that APD was investigating 115 homicides from last year and of that number, only about 30% had been closed, which was an all-time record low for APD.
The APD annual clearance rate since 2017 has been between 53% and 57%, and actually dropped to 37% in 2021. On April 19, APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the clearance rate of 97% included cases forwarded to the district attorney for possible charges. Of the 47 suspects arrested, charged or identified as of May 19, 23 were suspected in 2022 homicides and 24 in previous year homicides. 17 were from 2021, two from 2020 and five from 2019. Four suspects are dead and 3 are fugitives.
During each year of Mayor Tim Keller’s years in office, the city’s murder rates rose, dropped one year, and then rose to a historical high. Following is the breakdown of homicide by year:
2017: 72 homicides
2018: 69 homicides.
2019: 82 homicides
2020: 76 homicides
2021: 117 homicides (Per capita murder rate of 20.8 per 100,000.)
2022: 67 homicides as of July 19 (By this time in 2020, there were 65.)
According to APD records reviewed, APD has made an arrest, filed charges or otherwise cleared 34 of the 2022 homicide cases. According to APD, the unit has also cleared 19 cases from previous years in 2022. Thus far in 2022, there have been 69 homicides and last year there were 117 homicides for a grand total of 186.
Each year since 1995, the FBI releases annually its Crime In The United States Report. The Marshall Project describes the FBI’s method of calculating clearance rate as “blunt math…dividing the number of crimes that were cleared, no matter which year the crime occurred, by the number of new crimes in the calendar year.” By including clearance of old and new cases, a department’s rate in any particular year could exceed 100%. This leaves the statistics open to “statistical noise,” but ultimately can be useful for examining trends over the a longer term.
Using the FBI method of calculating murder clearance rates, clearing 34 cases out of 184 total cases for 2021 and 2022 is actually an 18.2 % clearance rate, not the 97% APD is claiming. The 18.5% is calculated as follows: 117 total homicides for 2021 + 69 homicides thus far in 2022 = 186 homicides DIVIDED into 34 cases claimed cleared by APD = 18.2% clearance rate for the time period of January 1, 2021 to July 19, 2022.
APD and its homicide unit needs to be recognized and commended for doing their jobs and doubling the number of the cases it is solving. However, APD loses credibility with the public when the command staff skews the numbers proclaiming a 97% clearance rate. This is not how the FBI calculates murder clearance rates and it’s not how APD reports them in performance measures. It is this type of sneaky and misleading conduct that results in APD losing credibility with the public.
City residents can only take limited comfort with APD being able to increase solving the number of homicide cases. City residents should not be lulled into a sense of safety simply because APD proclaims it has a 97% clearance rate when in fact it is actually upwards of 40%. The blunt truth is the solving of murder cases does not and will not make the city any safer.”
The link to the New Mexico Sun article is here:
ABOUT THE NEW MEXICO SUN
The New Mexico Sun is part of the Sun Publishing group which is a nonprofit. The New Mexico Sun “mission statement” states in part:
“The New Mexico Sun was established to bring fresh light to issues that matter most to New Mexicans. It will cover the people, events, and wonders of our state. … The New Mexico Sun is non-partisan and fact-based, and we don’t maintain paywalls that lead to uneven information sharing. We don’t publish quotes from anonymous sources that lead to skepticism about our intentions, and we don’t bother our readers with annoying ads about products and services from non-locals that they will never buy. … Many New Mexico media outlets minimize or justify problematic issues based on the individuals involved or the power of their positions. Often reporters fail to ask hard questions, avoid making public officials uncomfortable, and then include only one side of a story. This approach doesn’t provide everything readers need to fully understand what is happening, why it matters, and how it will impact them or their families.”
The home page link to the New Mexico Sun is here: