Relatives of murder victims in the US are less likely than ever to see their loved one's killer face justice. According to FBI data, the "clearance rate"—the proportion of murder cases solved or otherwise closed per year—for homicides nationwide has fallen to a record low of just over 50%, CBS News reports. "It's a 50-50 coin flip," says Thomas Hargrove of the Murder Accountability Project. "It's never been this bad. During the last seven months of 2020, most murders went unsolved. That's never happened before in America."
CBS—which carried out a wide-ranging investigation of the issue in partnership with local stations—notes that there are huge disparities between regions and races, with murders of white people around 50% more likely to be solved than cases with Black victims. Authorities in areas with low clearance rates cite issues including rising murder rates, a lack of resources, and a breakdown in trust between police and communities. The FBI suggests that homicide detectives carry no more than five cases at a time, but in Jackson, Mississippi, eight detectives were tasked with investigating 153 murders last year.
"The whole system is backlogged," Jackson Police Chief James Davis says. "I could use more police officers. I could use more homicide detectives, but if the state is backed up, the court is backed up, we will still have the same problem by developing these cases that we're already doing." CBS News and Stations co-president Wendy McMahon tells the Hollywood Reporter that the Crime Without Punishment series exploring the issue is the first major collaboration between the national news team and local teams. "We have an opportunity to connect the dots for our audiences and help them understand this is a systemic and layered issue," she says. (Read more murder stories.)