Unsolved Shootings are Rising

In 2015, I documented that crime in Baltimore was rising rapidly as police resources became stretched as they dealt with riots and anger following the death of Freddie Gray. I warned that the city could tip into a permanently higher crime rate.

It’s now become clear that is exactly what happened as an investigative report by The Trace reveals:

Instead of getting backup, detectives were pulled from their cases, sometimes for days at a time, to help quell the violence. By 2016, homicide investigators cumulatively spent 10,000 hours working riot duty and patrol rather than tracking down murderers…

In the ensuing months, Baltimore’s closure rate for shootings dropped to 25 percent, the lowest in recent history. More than 1,100 cases from 2015 and 2016 alone remained unsolved by the following summer.

As the closure rate fell, the number of shootings increased (see data at right).

It’s not just Baltimore, however:

The crisis of unsolved shootings isn’t confined to cash-strapped cities like Baltimore, but also hits some of America’s most affluent metropolises. In 2016, Los Angeles made arrests for just 17 percent of gun assaults, and Chicago for less than 12 percent. The same year, San Francisco managed to make arrests in just 15 percent of the city’s nonfatal shootings. In Boston, the figure was just 10 percent.

Crime is lower today than in the past but we are in danger of becoming complacent. The rate of unsolved crimes is very high and in some cities it is soaring. Any city with an arrest rate for assaults of 15% is primed for a crime wave.

We need more police as well as better policing.

Addendum: I wonder how many of these cities are still devoting significant resources to marijuana busts?


Time for a new season of The Wire.

The Freddie Gray incident was used for political gain by a racist mayor and prosecutor. The riots and anger were gen'ed up to help the political scam. It all fell apart of course as the truth slowly leaked out no thanks to the MSM. Now the city is lawless (well, even more lawless than it was before) and everyone is pointing fingers at the wrong people. There is a lesson here but no one cares to learn from it. The scam is more enticing. Meanwhile the poor and working class pay the price for the politicians greed.

Wait, how was the Freddie Gray case made up? Did he not die in the van?

There is a lot of room between Michael Brown and Walter Scott.

He did die in the van. The only witness was an "ear" witness who basically said that lil Freddy intentionally bounced himself off the wall presumably so he could inflict some injury and thus sue the police. But regardless the entire story was simply the ruse used to create the hoax. The police didn't abuse Freddy. The Mayor and DA decided to ride this hoax into a better political office and they threw the police under the bus. Without effective policing we now have anarchy in the inner city. Baltimore is/was actually a pretty city with a lot of history and beautiful places to see. But I wouldn't set foot in there today.

yeet actually
he did not die in the van
he was injured in the van
and died in the hospital

A distinction without a difference. That changes the story...how???

ur the one who changed the story
so now we are supposed to interpret
everthing you, the sociologists and the donald say
symbolically not literally?
distinction and difference mean about the same thing but
here are some differences
- a big hospital bill
-one is a fact one is a sociology narrative
-location of death is pretty important for establishing
cause of death and for a legal case
there are probly a lot more

So he intentionally threw himself around in the back of the van, breaking his neck and putting himself into a coma?

That can't be ruled out beyond a reasonable doubt... but that's hardly the same as "the truth slowly leaked out" and "the ruse used to create the hoax".

There's also the cops allegedly intimidating a witness at gunpoint.

To be effective the police need the trust and cooperation of the public, the Baltimore police lost that through their own behaviour.

The crime spike in Baltimore is the fault of the police. They're the ones who created the situation where they can't do their jobs.

that is quite a sociology narrative
mebbe this is why you fello/as cant get your studies to reproduce
you say "the crime spike in baltimore is the fault of the police"
that seems more than a little reductive
the violent crime spike in baltimore is mostly because
of the violent criminals doing the violent crimes

You'll always have a portion of the population pre-disposed to crime. The job of the police is to manage that population.

The difficultly for the police is that criminals tend to commit crimes in their own communities, so police need to come into those communities and get them to turn in one of their own.

If police build ties with the communities and become part of them that works fairly well.

But in Baltimore they've massively alienated the African American community through years of abuses.

Why would you expect witnesses to cooperate when you literally intimidate them at gunpoint?

you say "Why would you expect witnesses to cooperate
when you literally intimidate them at gunpoint?"
-the police routinely intimidating witnesses with guns
is mostly a sociology dept. fantasy
if it happens it is mostly an outlier
- crime victims and witnesses are often involved with
the heroin trade this is probably a bigger factor in noncooperation
and most witness intimidation at gunpoint is gonna be the the gangster heroin dealers

the sociology dept has massively underated the amount of gang violence

But aren't Maryland's assault-weapons ban and waiting periods lowering crime and extending life-expectancy?

The Republicans in charge of those cities should be ashamed of themselves.

Nicely done. Brevity is the soul of wit, as usual.

+1 and +1
Republicans seem to do better than Democrats in state and local Government and the really great thing is, they can't start wars from those positions.

Like WW1, or WW2, or Korea, or Vietnam?

Lol! +1 of course.


I wonder if that is an artifact of having a majority of liberal voters in a lot of states and cities. So in those places, especially along the Acela corridor, Republicans only ever have a shot at winning a city or statewide election when they campaign as pragmatists and when folks are fed up with incompetence and corruption from Democrats at the local and state level. But you also have Republicans like George Ryan in Illinois as well.

To know if the claimed 10,000 hours diverted to non-homocide dities is material or trivial, one would need to know the baseline number of hours.

It would also be interesting to know how the total available police and detective man hours were spent - by type of crime, type of duty, training, court, etc.

It's spelled "homicide" unless the author is Al Sharpton or intended highlighting mass murders of gays.

It likely wasn't riot duty. More likely, it was the sharp increase in Baltimore NRA memberships! (sarcasm)

The case-closing rate isn't what matters. It's the crime/murder rates. America's Mayor Giuliani and NYPD Comm. Bratton employed "methods" that saved thousands of lives, for which they were excoriated. Not only detectives, possibly the entire department, top down, became terrified of being "Freddy Grayed" or "Eric Garnered."

"The case-closing rate isn't what matters. It's the crime/murder rates."

Exactly. How to accomplish that is not addressed by simply having more police.

It's the relationship between the poverty rate and violent crime that is statistically significant. Baltimore's poverty rate is almost 24% (as compared to less than 10% in all of Maryland), for children the rate is almost 30%. But the poverty rate has actually been declining (but not by much) since 2014 when it peaked. It won't surprise readers that Baltimore's population is about 64% African American. More and better policing may help reduce crime, but turning policing into a military occupation won't solve the problem of poverty; the key to reducing violent crime is reducing the poverty rate. And to reduce the poverty rate will require either (1) policies that encourage business (locally-owned (i.e., black-owned) business) or (2) policies that encourage migration (to places with lower poverty rates). What policies are those? Cowen's friend Amihai Glazer is the co-author of a book on the conditions for success of government policies. I'm not optimistic. Why? This is not the era of rational decision-making for government policies.

Its not poverty. By historical standards, even US standards within living memory, these populations are materially reasonably to remarkably well off. See Theodore Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom, for example.

Totally agree.

Japan has a fairly high proportion of its population living in poverty, and a fairly high proportion of its kids growing up in poverty, but does not have nearly the same kinds of problems with crime the US has, and the country also has a world famous Mafia to boot. So no, it is definitely more than just poverty that causes crime in developed countries.

The blacks wanted soft on crime and high taxes for free benefits. They won government, implemented their ideas, drove away the whites, and got even firmer control over government. Now that they destroyed the city its time to ship em to the county and wreck that too. If they ever get to be 50%+ of the County they will no doubt jack the property tax up to double, fritter it all away on corrupt bullshit, and wreck the schools.

If Baltimore was in Michigan instead of Federal Tax Dollar rich Maryland it would be Detroit.

I am surprised you would make this error of thinking. Does poverty cause the crimes or does a criminal lifestyle cause poverty. Also, if poverty caused the crime, then why isn't everyone a criminal?

All that said, I once lived in a black ghetto for a few years and both witnessed and was a victim of criminal behavior. Though it is considered racist to even say it, the pathologies in the black community are deep and widespread - welfare, drugs, children out of marriage, boys without father's, teen pregnancy, and widespread violence. However, in the midst of all that trouble, there are many heroic but simple black people that live good honest lives.

I worked in construction at the time, and the child, tween, teen, and slightly older thugs would hang out all day, doing nothing but occasionally stealing my tools and raising havoc. Being naive, I thought it would be cool to talk to them and even get them stoned. The stuff that came out of their mouths was shocking. I could see the hollow nihilism in their eyes. It was scary.

Living in such a dangerous place is a form of poverty but I think that flow is on the other direction, that is the violence cause poverty. Nevertheless the victims of the violence are our fellow citizens and we should help them turn this around. It seems to that a lot of it is street crime and so lots more and better police should help:

See here for evidence that it's not about the money: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/nyregion/kiryas-joel-a-village-with-the-numbers-not-the-image-of-the-poorest-place.html

Perhaps Robin Hanson's idea of crime insurance would help since Government police seem to doing such a poor job. http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/01/privately-enforced-punished-crime.html

Proverbs 17:1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.
Proverbs 15:17 (ASV) Better is a dinner of herbs, where love is, Than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.

The modern poor can afford the vices of the Biblical rich.

The twin pillars of Alex's brain: (1) enthusiastically endorse every Dem effort to be soft on crime, and (2) complain that there is too much crime.

He's still a big fan of keeping everyone out of prison until they finally kill or maim someone; he doesn't think cops should be allowed to arrest someone simply because they have an outstanding warrant; he'll gladly destroy any cop who shoots in self defense; he thinks all sentences are too long; and he wants all US borders to be wide open to literally anyone.

Yeah, more cops! That oughtta do it!

AlexT is paradoxical, his priors are different from mine. He seems like a liberal law and order type, a strange combination.

I wonder how the abortion rate figures into this rise in crime? Has there been a rise in unwanted children since the year 2000?

Perhaps too many behaviors are defined as crimes even though their prevention has little value to most people.

The statistics he gave relate to shootings, presumably not involving air guns.

If marginal law enforcement resources are used to penalize behavior most people don't care enough about, then they could have been allocated to investigate and prevent shootings instead.

Would that it were so simple. This is Baltimore; the cops can't stop people from shooting heroin or shooting each other in the face.

That is a bold statement. In my personal experience, petty crime is ubiquitous and accepted as a fact of life - just background noise. I also personally witnessed violent crimes I had never seen before nor since.

If I had to choose one cause, or a foundational cause, I would pick welfare. Petulant female teens see they can drop out of school and get pregnant, escape mom's dominion, get their own place, have their own money, and just hang out all day eating and getting fat. Some houses have three generations of welfare mom's living in the same house.
It's a pernicious problem. If welfare is the ultimate cause, the secondary causes are the destruction of the black family and decrease in participation in the black church. The church in my neighborhood was a sight to behold. Crowds of beautiful black families dressed in suits and dresses, joyous, exuberant gospel music blasting out of the windows - I could feel the low frequencies in my chest. I am certain the people in that church were doing fine, but I have no data.

The animals hanging out in the streets are another matter.

Good post. Saw the same thing(s) when I lived in DC.

I would think that the everyday petty but ubiquitous and often violent crime and harassment are the worst factors: they contribute to the lawlessness and that in turn allows gangs to thrive.

The foundational cause creates the secondary cause.


If you have to resort to believing in childish fairy tales to solve crime, then your community is not worth saving anyway.

Spoken like someone who's never had a mortgage.

I don't see the logical connection, but I'm sure your full of secret wisdom.

When you tie up a substantial portion of your net worth in a piece of real estate, you tend to be less judgmental about the means or methods of holding crime down in your community and preserving market values. Not really a secret or a piece of wisdom.

"...childish fairy tales..."
You miss the point entirely. Social institutions like churches have powerful latent functions, like community, mutual support, sharing, mating, business connections, opportunity sharing, etc. In contrast, sitting home and smoking weed or, much worse, gets you nowhere.

Every civilization gas it's foundational myths. In fact, most of those cynical people on the left, that look down their noses at the church going bumpkins, are walking around in a fog unconciously interpreting reality through the ideas of Foucault, Laccant, ans Derrida to profoundly ill effect.

But, go ahead, show off your ignorance.

Check out "Pigs for the Ancestors".

I actually think the dysfunctions of organized religion are greater than the functions, but even if that were untrue, I'd still reject the trade-off.

If you have to reject basic epistemic rationality in favor of supernatural narratives, your entire system was never worth saving.

I grew up militantly atheist. As I've gotten older, I never started believing anything, but I came to appreciate what, for example, the Mormons are accomplishing. And I wondered if I was doing my kids some sort of disfavor.

I recently overheard my wife telling my kid that we were "ethnically" Christian in response to his question. In my head I denied there was any such thing, and then I began to lament that. I have Jewish friends who think the idea of god and a flood and building the pyramids is all malarkey, but who have a cohesive community that does favors for one-another. It's worth wondering if we're throwing out the baby with the bathwater in this respect.

You are wiser than Ten.

What Ten does not appreciate is that even so called secular people believe in their own set of myths. They are just blind to them.

Yeah, I don't actually care about this sort of rhetoric. First of all, I never claimed secular people don't have their own myths - they do, different ones in fact. It's pretty much a truism, and you're abusing it to sneak in the unfounded implication that therefore, all myths are equally absurd and all detachment from reality equally severe.

I meet completely bat-shit crazy atheists all the time, some with goals that I consider deeply hostile. Yet this doesn't make the theists sane or their goals benign.

But whatever your myths are: If your only way to have a functional social system is to believe in wide-spanning, detailed narratives that have no foundation in reality, I'm not interested in saving that system from collapse.

Yeah, the idea that science and rationality are on equal footing with ghosts and goblins is absurd. And we do no-one favors by equating them.

But, if pretending to believe in something absurd for an hour of tradition each week is the hardest thing you have to do in exchange for a functional social system, and you reject that, I you think you may have your priorities messed up. We participate in Christmas and Santa and all that stuff not because I believe in a magical gift-giving elf, but because the ritual serves a purpose.

It's clearly possible to do religion poorly, but again, look at the Jews and Mormons. It's possible to do it well.

Hi Durkheim! Senator Moynihan has some things he'd like to say to you.

Yea, that was my experience in the ghettos as well.

I've sometimes wondered if homicide detective shouldn't be an esteemed and high-salaried profession more like a doctor. It should draw the best and brightest without them feeling like they're doing something out-of-bounds. The impact is just massive.

It looks like they are pulling down something in the $100k neighborhood in salary. That's less than I make as an engineering assistant professor! I think my work is good and important, but I don't think it' as important as solving murders in today's America, where so many go unsolved, murder is common and citizens live in fear. I know they have excellent benefits, but nobody brags to their high-school buddies about what their deductibles will be in thirty years.

I am a little biased because I grew up in a homicide-heavy place, and can see the massive difference since homicides went down in the 90s, and between the city where I grew up and the city where I live now.

The flaw in this idea is that maybe being among the "best and brightest" (high IQ, high conscientiousness) doesn't make you a good homicide detective any more than it makes you a good sniper. And maybe no one among the B&B will ever want to do their time as a beat cop no matter what the payday is down the road.

Policing is a low skill, tedious, unpleasant occupation -- which is why it does not attract the "best and brightest." It is not like what's portrayed on the TV shows.

My father who worked with the police a lot in his job said that Barney Miller was the only realistic police show.

And Police Squad! with Leslie Nielsen

In my experience, there are four types of cops. There are of course everyday schlubs just trying to get by.

These are overshadowed by (1) wanna be fascists who dig the guns and uniforms and telling people what to do from behind mirrored shades and a Hitler youth haircut, (2) religious nuts who are essentially indistinguishable from the fascists, except they use the work Lord more, (3) criminal personality types who realized that policing was a better gig.

Of the four types, three were generally hated in high school.

In my experience, there are four types of cops.

Kinda figured you for a no good punk.

Of the four types, the schlubs are probably 90%+

May well be true. I suspect on many forces though, types 1 and 2 tend to dominate the culture.

I think in a way it's a lot like the military.

Your bias is showing - only you can't see it.

What bias is that? Are you suggesting I am ignoring all the hippies and anti-nuke protestors that join the force?

It is sad to watch as America sinks into an abysm of kawlessness and fear of its own creation.

America is not Kawless
the Kaw are mostly in Oklahoma

I meant "lawlessness". This keyboard is much smaller than my hands.

It's weird to see an obscure word like "abysm" side by side with such a silly typographical error.

As I said, the keyboard is too small. It was probably designed by Asians. Also, "abysm" is not an obscure word. It is almost identical to the Portuguese word "abismo". Shakespeare used the word: "What seest thou else. In the dark backward and abysm of time?" (The Tempest | Act 1, Scene 2).

Also: "And at this time most easy 'tis to do't,
When my good stars, that were my former guides,
Have empty left their orbs, and shot their fires
Into the abysm of hell." (Antony and Cleopatra |Act III, SCENE XIII).

Given the scarce media attention on Maryland state government’s public pension crisis, which includes a $19.7 billion shortfall, Marylanders could be forgiven for not knowing that their local governments also face daunting unfunded pension liabilities.

With unfunded pension liabilities growing every year at both local and state level, Maryland can no longer ignore the problem.

From: http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/pension-map-shows-counties-have-liabilities-too/2018/08/14

Maryland, and Baltimore, have little or no discretionary spending. I suspect this the primary cause, inability for local government to respond, on just about any new problem. All across the large cities, especially LA, we see the same issue, like the teaches strike. It is all about local governments having dis-utility when discretionary spending is gone. Adaptable flow for governments services, without it your voters rebel.

Government employees, especially in local government, are so smart that, given enough money, they could solve any problem.

Pretty well known why, but those who caused it will surely play dumb.


Interesting. There's two pieces of the puzzle in that link, though:

1. The term was coined by Dotson in a 2014 column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.[2] Dotson said in the column that, after the protests in Ferguson caused by the shooting of Michael Brown that August, his officers had been hesitant to enforce the law due to fears of being charged, and that "the criminal element is feeling empowered" as a result.

2. A 2016 study by sociologists Matthew Desmond and Andrew V. Papachristos concluded that black people were afraid to call 911 after a heavily publicized violent beating of an unarmed black man by white police officers. After the police beating of Frank Jude in October 2004 was reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there was a 17% drop in 911 calls, and a 32% increase in homicides. "Our research suggests that this happened not because the police 'got fetal' but because many members of the black community stopped calling 911, their trust in the justice system in tatters," they wrote.

I imagine both of these factors could be at work, simultaneously.

isn't it Justas/more likely that members of the black community
in baltimore are afraid to call the police
because baltimore gang members/heroin dealers
shoot members of the black community who call the police?

Yes, it is interesting that the people we pay to enforce our laws, would pitch a temper tantrum and go on a passive-aggressive job strike when forced to follow the same laws themselves.

They were jeopardizing their careers just enforcing the laws. That's what you get by electing the kinks of POS like Baltimore has, who care more about attacking cops than their own citizens' welfare. Those protesting are getting what they asked for. Good and hard.

Well, exactly. Police should be above the law and beyond scrutiny. Despite the blue code of silence and a crisis of law enforcement lying, which is only now becoming provable in the video age.

Because, well, um, because the job is less dangerous than many lesser paying jobs (once you remove the driving). Because who the hell holds 100-car funeral procession for some poor miner that died of black lung, or a farm worker that got killed by some machinery.

The police officer that attempted to arrest the Furguson thug was almost killed, spent time in the hospital, lost his job, lost his carrier, and was villified in the media.

The police, however, didn't notice any of that and continued to do their duty and protect the community.

I also believe in the Easter Bunny.

Police are repeatedly caught lying in these event, even manufacturing evidence.

Apparently that's part of doing their duty.

Both McMike and EdR are saying things that are likely true. Which is why Tabarrok wrote that we need more and better policing. Cops both need to routinely solve crimes, especially homicides and assaults with a deadly weapon, and they also need to reduce the number of people that they shoot or kill, and they need to reduce the number of instances in which cops manufacture evidence and/or lie. None of these things are mutually exclusive.

The real question is: Is there connection between high closure rate reduces shootings or crime in general?

In the data you present, the closure rate and increase in violent crime are probably not connected, because if there would be a causal link, it would not work immediately.
Riots increasing gun violence is more likely.

Solution for cash-strapped cities bankrupted by pension obligations: more employees with public pensions!

Maybe New Hampshire can spare some of its large number of cops who must be holding down its violent crime rate.

"You have the right to remain silent," and "Snitches get stitches," are pretty powerful messages.

Hey statisticians, is my math correct that if the current rate stays up where it is, that a black male who lives his whole like in Baltimore has about a 1 in 10 chance of dying by murder?

Marijuana is legal in California for medicinal and recreational purposes. However police are still arresting people for "unlicensed" grows & dispensaries.

Not paying taxes on you pot is a much worse crime than having illegal pot.

Unlicensed grows are often a fire hazard.

We had 2 big fired in our neighborhood - both unlicensed grows and one a honey oil explosion. These people should be arrested.

It's time for your federal government to step in and create a federal police.

We have enough police resources - we need to radically re-prioritize them better. We need to value people over businesses.

We need to prioritize violent crime over non-violent crime in order to provide safe operating environments for businesses. What do you think creates the urban "food deserts" everybody is fond of mentioning?

The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again.

Avoidance of a handful of police shootings increases non-police shootings because the police are afraid of doing their job. Well done Black Lives Matters

Agreed. Blacks should continue to take one for the white team, and allow themselves to get murdered by cops without complaining.

The biggest threat to blacks is other blacks. Seriously.

That's a non sequitur

Who do you think is shooting black men in Baltimore and everywhere else--the Ku Klux Klan?

Doesn't matter. This is a thread about shootings by police.

"Addendum: I wonder how many of these cities are still devoting significant resources to marijuana busts?"

Not St. Louis! https://www.riverfronttimes.com/newsblog/2019/01/14/st-louis-county-will-stop-prosecuting-marijuana-possession-under-100-grams

Heather MacDonald has written a lot about this... neighborhoods with high #s of shooting tend to be ones in which large proportions of residents view murders as internal feuds that police should not get involved in. And they have elected reps who share their views.

It might seem odd that the residents are so resistant to policing until you realize the shootings are almost always in some way related to the rivers of drug money flowing through these same neighborhoods. In some sense for them the police are just another gang, one that doesn't hand out Benjamins like candy to informers.

say it isn't so
we destinkly remember that
the sociology dept and narrative public radio told us
drug related crime is nonviolent and
heroin dealers are social justice warriors

they had "studies" that proved it

The fruits of the welfare state.

Freddie Gray not only died of callous carelessness by his captors, but the knife for which he was arrested wasn't even illegal.

Naturally, the poor residents no longer trust the police and are no longer willing to tell them anything, and this is the result.

Police departments caused this problem. They need to solve it by purging their ranks of "cowboys" and becoming "guardians." Or politicians need to do it for them. Nothing else will work.

1. The knife contravened a city ordinance, something the police officers knew and the incompetent prosecutor did not.

2. Gray was admonished repeatedly by the custodial officer to sit still and quit bouncing around. Eventually, the officer cuffed his ankles and laid him down on the floor of the van, telling him to stay put. While the van is in motion, he tries to stand up and topples over backward into a metal protrusion. That's not the result of the negligence of his captors.

"More resources" but no mention of incentives from an economist.

How do you think the incentives for Baltimore police officers changed after Freddie Gray?

How do you distinguish "cops scared to do their job like normal" from "cops doing a slow-down strike because they don't like being held accountable for their actions"?

I'm 100% serious here. If we can't distinguish those two situations we have real problems.

Baltimore is getting back to being the city I learned about from Tom Clancy in the John Clarke origin story (1970s):


Perhaps the police are too busy arresting peaceful protestors for trespassing and ignoring police orders

So long as folks in the big cities don't want more police, and view police negatively, cities aren't going to get more police. Given its proximity to DC, getting crime rates low enough that folks working in DC would gentrify the city would yield huge, huge dividends in tax receipts for the city and the state, but there doesn't seem to be any political will to get the police staffing levels to where they need to be to get control of crime.

They can't recruit new cops because nobody wants to work under those conditions. They already spend a lot of money on policing, it doesn't solve the problem.

Baltimore also has some of the highest property taxes in the country and terrible public schools.

Baltimore Police Department is hiring.

The starting salary is look pretty good for someone without a college degree. The pension is 60% of pay after 25 years. Sargeants and Lieutenants get six figure salaries. I think it would be a great opportunity for some of the young black people living in Baltimore.

Check it out!


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