WOU in the news: National statistics on homicide arrests

Story published in the Corvallis Gazette-Times
By Anthony Rimel

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 2013, the most recent year with complete statistics available there were 13,075 murders in the United States.

Of those, just over 64 percent of murder cases were “cleared,” meaning that they ended with an arrest, or through “exceptional means,” such as the death of a suspect or a denial of extradition.

Stephen Gibbons, the head of the Criminal Justice program at Western Oregon University, said that the reliability of the FBI’s published statistics can vary because it is based on reported crimes — but that with murder the statistics are pretty reliable because those crimes are very likely to be reported and investigated.

“(Murders) have a relatively high clearance rate compared to other crimes,” he said.

Gibbons said that most murders have lots of evidence: both physical evidence, such as a body and, sometimes, weapons, and also witness testimony — which is relevant because the victim and offender often know each other.

Gibbons said that factors that make an investigation more difficult include not being able to find the murder weapon, lack of witnesses, or witnesses who are uncooperative.

“Stranger-to-stranger violence is harder to solve,” he added. Gibbons said he had no direct knowledge of the Kimberly Hakes case, but that murders like it can be more difficult for investigators if the perpetrator was a transient who moved on after the crime.

Gibbons said police are typically very thorough in documenting and investigating murder.

“It’s such a serious charge they don’t take the investigation lightly,” he said.