In Cleveland, you've got about a 30 percent chance of getting away with murder

CLEVELAND - In Cleveland, you've got about a 30 percent chance of getting away with murder. Looking at it in a different light, committing a murder in Cleveland will likely land you in jail because the city's homicide clearance rate as of 2012 was sitting high at 69 percent.

A "homicide clearance rate," most commonly known as the "homicide solve rate" is the number of murder cases solved within a given year. That number could change if pending cases are closed even after the year has ended. For example, if a murder from 2001 was solved last week, that case would be counted toward 2001 not this year's homicide solve rate.

Cleveland's Public Safety Director Martin Flask believes the 2012 solve rate is going to increase as pending cases from late 2012 are resolved.

"It's good, but I can make an argument that it's not good enough," he said. "Murder, in my opinion, is the most heinous crime a person can commit."

Over the past four years, Cleveland's solve rate has remained steady.

- In 2011, the homicide solve rate was 67 percent
- In 2010, the homicide solve rate was 73 percent
- In 2009,  the homicide solve rate was nearly 80 percent

Compare those numbers to cities like Chicago. In 2012, Chigaco had 506 murders, only 129 which were solved. That brings their homicide solve rate to a low 25 percent.

New York City finished the year with about a 59 percent homicide solve rate according to published reports.

Ever wonder why the A&E show "The First 48" practically owns a home in Cleveland? Like most TV shows, they need a beginning and an end, and usually Cleveland's homicide unit delivers.

"We have in Cleveland some of the most outstanding investigators," Flask said. "But the role the community has in solving these crimes is equally important." That's something Cleveland Police Chief Mike McGrath made clear at a news conference regarding the recent East 93rd Street attacks.

"Members of the community are our eyes and ears on the street," McGrath said at the April 4 news conference held at the justice center. "When something bad happens, 95 percent of the time somebody knows [something]. All we are asking is for a little help."

If you follow me on Twitter (@baldwinreports), then you were the first to read that the two people of interest in the East 116th Street attack were being held on unrelated charges and are likely not behind the assault on the 20-year-old.

Police have also said they don't have anything new to report on the murder of Christine Malone whose body was found by kids on Bessemer Street. It took police about two weeks to solve the murder of 20-year-old Jazmine Trotter who died while walking around 5:30 one morning along East 93rd Street. Police arrested Jerome Ogletree who is being held on a $1 million bond.

What may not surprise you is knowing most of the homicides in the city of Cleveland are drug related, according to Flask. But would you have guessed the other is domestic violence?

"Incidents that escalate into violence and someone has done something in which they will be forever sorry," Flask explained.

So what about the 30 percent that aren't solved? Flask said getting that number lower must come from the community.

"Most crimes do have a witness and people do have information. Encouraging a conduit so the information can flow from the community to police is really important," said Flask.

Even with Crimestoppers, which allows people to give information anonymously, Flask said getting people to come forward can be difficult.

"Some people are reluctant to step forward for fear of retribution or just don't want to get involved."

And getting people to step forward doesn't take good police work, it takes good citizens.

Devon Edwards knows all too much about people not getting involved. His mother, Cheryl, was killed in 2006 in a hit and run crash. To this day, the case has not been solved.

"Don't nobody want to talk?" he wondered, standing two blocks from where her body was found. "Don't nobody want to do nothing?"

Edwards has no idea why it's like that, but said, "if I knew, I would try to solve the problem."

And if the Cleveland homicide detectives knew? Their solve rate would be at 100 percent. And maybe then the safety director wouldn't have a reason to argue the solve rate isn't good enough -- because then it would be great.

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