Clearing homicides: Role of organizational, case, and investigative dimensions

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Clearing homicides: Role of organizational, case, and investigative dimensions

Category: Crime, Homicide|Journal: Criminology & Public Policy|Author: C Lum, C Wellford, H Vovak, J Scherer, T Scott|Year: 2019

Research Summary

Since the RAND Corporation studies on investigations were published, there has been a widely held belief among scholars that police agencies and investigative effort matter little to solving crimes. A few researchers have recently challenged this belief, however, producing results that show that investigative effort does play a role in clearing crimes. In this study, we replicate the methodological approach of the RAND studies and use multiagency, multimethod, detailed case files, as well as organizational analysis, to examine the association among investigative effort, case features, organizational factors, and the clearance of homicide cases. The results show that variation between the homicide clearances in agencies can be explained by case attributes, investigative practices, and organizational differences. Future research should be aimed at building on these results using a similar design with a larger number of agencies.


Policy Implications

An agency’s ability to clear homicides is a function of the resources it applies to conduct investigations and how it organizes its effort. Agencies seeking to increase their ability to clear homicides should focus on increasing investigative efforts for cases (i.e., thoroughness of the initial investigative response) and prioritize oversight, management, and evaluation of investigation work. The results of our study show that providing justice to the family, friends, and communities of homicide victims is an achievable goal for law enforcement agencies when they attend to investigative efforts.

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