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MPD Chief Cathy Lanier, “There’s no trick to DC’s homicide closure rate”

by Prince Of Petworth — February 27, 2012 at 11:00 am 27 Comments

Chief Cathy Lanier

Chief Lanier sent out via the listservs:

On Feb. 19, The Washington Post published a front-page article headlined “The trick to D.C.’s homicide closure rate,” suggesting that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was somehow tricking the public by announcing that it had a 94 percent homicide closure rate. To support its slanted claims, the article used misleading and inflammatory quotes from ill-informed sources. Furthermore, the writer left out information supplied by my department that would have invalidated the assertions contained in the story.

As chief of police, it is my duty to respond, to explain the truth and to defend the tireless work of the members of the MPD.

My Editorial in response to the article can be found at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/theres-no-trick-to-dcs-homicide-closure-rate/2012/02/24/gIQAgtFYYR_story.html

She writes:

“The fact is, last year the District realized the lowest number of homicides and highest clearance rate in almost 50 years.

Oh, and by the way, in 2011 we closed 103 homicides, for a UCR closure rate of 95 percent. Regardless of how The Post would like us to record the rate, this is still approximately 40 percent over the national average for comparably sized cities.”

  • The Real Jason

    Ever since Lainer called for the heads of the DC-9 employees before the autopsy was even completed, shes been on my *hit list.

  • mj

    Give me a break! Lies. Smoke and mirrors. Why doesn’t she just admit she rigged the numbers?

    • foobar

      Did you read either the article or her rebuttal? The calculation was not secret, is a common way of doing it, and hasn’t changed in years.. back to before Lanier’s tenure. If you want a better picture of the crime stats, then read the actual published numbers and don’t rely on a single closure rate, which isn’t the best metric. Should a murder in December solved in February never count toward the closure rate? Or should they retroactively republish the closure rates every year based on new closures (and what would that measure)?

  • I don’t see any smoke and mirrors here. Sounds like she is following a uniform method of calculating this figure. The carryover issue is inevitable and over time should be a wash.

    • mj

      If you read the Post article, you will see that in fact she is not using a uniform method. She’s using the Lanier method.

  • j

    Whatevs. More pics of Ernie the Flying Dog please.

  • Anonymous

    Who cares about closure rates!? We want the killing to stop. We want to feel safe walking our neighborhoods at night. We don’t want our women’s jaws broken by thugs. We don’t want brawls at the zoo and in the metro. Please get the guns out of the hands of violent repeat juvenile offenders. Stop the open air drug markets that use children to do their dirty work. Why is it that Arlington County had zero murders in 2011 and we’re happy with a high closure rate for our one every 3rd day killing rate that we’re so proud of here in DC. Jeeze.

    • Denizen of Tenallytown

      How exactly is that the police department’s fault? You can’t put the entire district (including the National Zoo) on lockdown with officers stationed every 500 feet. It’s simply impossible. Crime in DC is a byproduct of poverty, poor education, and lack of opportunities for a very large section of the population. Arlington County’s median household income is $103,000. In DC, it’s $58,000 including Ward 3, Georgetown, Dupont, etc. Remove those areas and it drops precipitously.

    • High closure rates can/do lead to a reduction in crime in the first place. Closures do exactly what you are suggesting and take the “bad guys” off the streets.

    • Anonymous

      Then you have to have people start snitchin’ and stop dealing drugs.

      But the /majority/ of the city wants neither of these, so the beat goes on.

    • Then move to Arlington County. Jeeze.

    • Anonymous

      you need to think a little deeper on this.

  • Anonymous

    Did you see the massive editor’s note that I assume was added to the front of the article?

  • The 103 closed cases she cites is not 103 of the 108 murders committed in 2011, which yields the impressive percentage. MPD should consider including the total number of murders from those same years as well. She hides behind the UCR formula, which doesn’t change the fact that MPD solved 62, not 103, of its 108 murders in 2011, which doesn’t even sound that bad.

    • Anonymous

      Or, the POST writers had no idea what they were talking about because they didn’t take anything beyond “journalism” classes in college. So they have Zero subject matter expertise and ran with a story that they knew would sell page hits.

      Lazy, irresponsible, journalists who should be fired for incompetency.

  • Officer Friendly

    The problem is the Chief is hiding behind the fact that she’s putting out the UCR numbers, but in reality nobody cares about the UCR numbers; they care about the actual number of solved per year (i.e. 45% of homicides were closed).

    The question people didn’t ask is what counts as a closure. For most crimes, if I write up a warrant and it’s declined, the case is generally closed. If I arrest someone and the case is no-papered by the U.S Attorney’s office, it is closed. It doesn’t count indictment, arrest, conviction or plea. If you really looked at the numbers, the actual conviction rate is small.

    If the chief really wanted to honor us, she’d use the ‘real’ numbers and put the UCR numbers as a footnote.

    • jcm

      Nobody cares? I’ll bet the family of the victim cares. I’ll bet the criminal cares. I know for a fact I care. The idea that a closure counts for more if it happens to occur in the same year as the crime is completely ridiculous.

      Point taken on what counts as a closure, though. I’d love to see the conviction rate.

      • Anonymous

        All the people who’s loved one’s died earlier than last year sure give a shit. The POST even featured a kid who’s mom’s murder was finally solved last week AS A DIRECT RESULT OF UCR.

        Also, Lanier wasn’t “hiding” behind anything. Her audience, other cops and police chiefs, knew exactly what she was talking about.

    • jcm

      So I looked up what counts as a clearance. If you write up a warrant and it’s declined, it should not be reported as a clearance. Here are the UCR guidelines:
      For the purposes of the UCR, a crime is considered cleared if at least one person has been 1. arrested, 2. charged with the crime, and 3. handed over to the courts for prosecution.

      The UCR also considers some cases cleared when certain “exceptional means” are met. For a case to be cleared by “exceptional means,” the law enforcement agency must have identified the offender; gathered enough evidence to make an arrest, charge the offender, and turn him over for prosecution; identified the offender’s exact location; and encountered some circumstance beyond the agency’s control that prevented it from making an arrest. An example of a homicide cleared by “exceptional means” would be a homicide/suicide. Self-defense homicides also are considered cleared by “exceptional means.”

      The homicide clearance rate is determined by dividing the total number of homicides reported in a year by the number of arrests and “exceptional means” homicides. For the purpose of this report, the terms “cleared,” “closed,” and “solved” will be used interchangeably.

      The UCR homicide clearance rate is also affected by solved cold case homicides (homicides that occurred in previous years but were solved during current reporting years). In some years, some agencies might have a clearance rate greater than 100 percent. If a homicide committed in 1992 was solved in 2004, for example, the 2004 homicide clearance rate would be artificially high because the homicide was not reported in 2004 but was included as a cleared case in 2004. Conversely, if a death from a previous year is ruled a homicide in the current year it counts as a current year murder.

  • Anon

    I can’t help but think a Simpson’s quote is appropriate here: “There’s no trick to it, it’s just a simple trick”

    • anon

      “closed” != “solved”

  • an

    Cathy Lanier doesn’t know how to talk and tell the truth at the same time. I wouldn’t believe her if she told me I was on fire.

  • houseintherear

    I had a sour taste in my mouth about Lanier after the DC-9 event… gotta say, after reading more about her and hearing her many times on the Kojo show, I think she’s great at her job. She is definitely not full of b.s. or fluff- she gives such honest, quick, to-the-point responses, it’s amazing she works in DC.

  • Who wants to chip in and buy MPD a nicer backdrop for use with their official staff photographs?


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