Section III - Offenses Cleared





Offenses Cleared

Law enforcement agencies reporting offenses to the national UCR Program can clear these offenses in one of two ways: by arrest or by exceptional means. However, the administrative closing or 'clearing' of a case by a local law enforcement agency does not necessarily mean that the agency can clear an offense for UCR purposes. To clear an offense within the Program's guidelines, the reporting agency must adhere to certain criteria.

Cleared by Arrest

In the UCR Program, when a law enforcement agency reports that an offense is cleared, or solved by arrest, all of the following conditions have been met. At least one person was: * Arrested. * Charged with the commission of an offense.

* Turned over to the court for prosecution.

The UCR Program counts clearances by the number of offenses that are solved, not by the number of persons arrested. The arrest of one person may clear several crimes. Conversely, the arrest of many persons may clear only one offense. In addition, the clearances that an agency recorded in a particular calendar year such as 2003 may include offenses that occurred in previous years.

Cleared by Exceptional Means

When elements beyond law enforce-ment's control prevent the agency from placing formal charges against the offender, the agency can clear the offense exceptionally. There are four UCR Program requirements that law enforcement must meet in order to clear an offense by exceptional means. The agency must have: * Identified the offender. * Gathered enough evidence to support an arrest, make a charge, and turn over the offender to the court for prosecution.

* Identified the offender's exact location so that the suspect could be taken into custody immediately.

* Encountered a circumstance outside the control of law enforcement that prohibits the agency from arresting, charging, and prosecuting the offender.

Examples of exceptional clearances include, but are not limited to, the death of the offender (suicide, justifi-ably killed by law enforcement officers or private citizens, etc.); the victim's refusal to cooperate with the prosecution after having identified the offender; or the denial of extradition because the offender committed a crime in another jurisdiction and is being prosecuted for that offense. In the UCR Program, the recovery of property does not clear an offense.

2003 National Clearances

Nationwide, law enforcement agencies cleared 46.5 percent of violent crimes (murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) and 16.4 percent of property crimes (burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft). Additionally, law enforcement cleared 16.7 percent of reported arson offenses.

Continuing a long-term trend, in 2003 law enforcement cleared a higher percentage of violent crimes than property crimes. Violent crimes often undergo a more vigorous investigative effort than crimes against property, and they more often involve victims and/or witnesses who are able to identify the perpetrators. A further breakdown of the violent crime clearances for 2003 revealed that the Nation's law enforcement agencies cleared 62.4 percent of murders, 55.9 percent of aggravated assaults, 44.0 percent of forcible rapes, and 26.3 percent of robberies. A review of the clearances for property crimes indicated that law enforcement cleared 18.0 percent of larceny-thefts and 13.1 percent of both burglaries and motor vehicle thefts. (See Table 25.)

2003 Regional Clearances

An examination of the 2003 clearance data for the four regions of the country showed that law enforcement agencies in the Northeast cleared the highest percentage of violent crimes in 2003-49.8 percent. Agencies in the West followed with a 47.2 clearance percentage for violent crimes. Law enforcement in the South and the Midwest cleared 45.7 percent and 44.8 percent, respectively, of their violent crimes. Clearance data for property crime reflected that agencies in the Northeast cleared 20.1 percent of those crimes, and law enforcement in the South and Midwest cleared 16.6 percent and 16.5 percent, respectively. Agencies in the West cleared 14.4 percent of their property crimes. (See Table 26.)

2003 Clearances by Population Group

When presenting crime data, the UCR Program uses eight population group designations for aggregating data for the Nation's cities, metropolitan counties, and nonmetropolitan counties.


Figure 3.1

Crimes Cleared by Arrest

Percent of crimes cleared by arrest, 2003

(Appendix III furnishes a breakdown of these classifications.) Clearance data for 2003 revealed that law enforcement agencies in the Nation's cities cleared 44.7 percent of all reported violent crimes. Agencies in cities collectively cleared 61.9 percent of murders, 54.6 percent of aggravated assaults, 43.4 percent of forcible rapes, and 25.7 percent of robberies. Law enforcement in cities with populations ranging from 10,000 to 24,999 cleared the greatest percentage of murders-71.8 percent. Cities with 100,000 to 249,999 inhabitants cleared the lowest percentage of murders-58.7 percent.

In 2003, agencies in metropolitan counties cleared 51.6 percent of their violent crimes. Of those crimes, 60.0 percent of murders were cleared, 58.8 percent of aggravated assaults were cleared, 45.4 percent of forcible rapes, and 29.0 percent of robberies were cleared.

Law enforcement in nonmetropolitan counties cleared 59.9 percent of reported violent crimes. Within that category, agencies in those counties cleared 76.3 percent of murders, 62.9 percent of aggravated assaults, 46.8 percent of forcible rapes, and 43.1 percent of robberies.

An examination of data for property crime clearances reflected that agencies in the Nation's cities cleared 16.3 percent of those crimes in 2003. Of the property crimes cleared, law enforcement in cities collectively most often solved larceny-theft offenses, clearing 18.1 percent of those crimes. Similarly, agencies in metropolitan counties cleared 16.2 percent of their total property crimes, and they most often cleared larceny-theft offenses, reporting a 17.4 clearance percentage for that category. Data for nonmetropolitan counties reflected that law enforcement cleared 17.8 percent of their total property crimes, and the highest percentage of their clearances for that category-27.1 percent-was for motor vehicle theft. (See Table 25.)

Clearances Involving Only Persons Under 18 Years of Age

When an offender under the age of 18 is cited to appear in juvenile court or before other juvenile authorities, the UCR Program considers that incident to be cleared by arrest although a physical arrest may not have occurred. In addition, according to Program definitions, clearances involving both adult and juvenile offenders are classified as...

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