Barely half of all murders in California are solved and cleared by police.
About 21,600 Californians were murdered between 2003 and 2012, according to the California Department of Justice. Police identified and found about 12,200 murderers during the same period - for a clearance rate of roughly 56 percent.
Murder clearance rates can vary widely by jurisdiction. In East Palo Alto, fewer than one of five murders were solved between 2003 and 2012. In Sacramento, about four of five murders were solved during the same period.
A variety of factors can explain a low clearance rate:
- Police in areas with heavy gang activity must deal with a "no snitch" culture that encourages witnesses not to help cops.
- Some areas of the state were hit harder by police cuts during the recession than others, leaving them with fewer resources to conduct investigations.
- One agency might have a more liberal view of when a case is "cleared" than another, though the state gives instruction that a murder is cleared only after an arrest or after a perpetrator has been identified and located.
- Some agencies might simply do a better job than others.
This map and chart shows murder clearance rates for all California counties and for the 50 California cities with the most murders between 2003 and 2012.