Why Homicide Clearance Rates Decrease: Evidence from the Caribbean

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Reports and Publications
April 2010
Edward R. Maguirea, William R. King, Devon Johnson, Charles M. Katz

Police agencies and researchers have devoted significant attention to understanding and improving homicide clearance rates, which often serve as an overall barometer of police performance. Using quantitative and qualitative data, this study examines the factors that contributed to a rapid decline in homicide clearances in the developing island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. A variety of explanations are explored, including characteristics of homicide incidents, the communities where they occur, and the agencies that process these cases. The findings indicate that substantial changes in the nature of homicides, combined with insufficient organisational capacity within the criminal justice system to detect and respond to these changes, explain the declining homicide clearance rate. Theoretical explanations for homicide clearances must represent a blend of insights from criminology and organisational science to account for both the offence itself, as well as how it is processed by the police and other agencies.