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May 5th, 2009

Interesting Article about Cold Cases and Crime Stats


There’s a great article by Matt Stiles and Terri Langford in the Houston Chronicle called “Murder figures can be hard to solve.”

From the article:

Dr. Charles Wellford, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland, pointed out how a police “cold case” unit in Kansas City brought another 15 solved cases for a particular year to its annual murder clearance tally. The department then issued two sets of numbers for that year to explain what it did.

“You should get the benefit of clearing homicides from the previous year … ” 

I looked up Dr. Wellford (pictured) on the University of Maryland’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s website, and what an impressive background he has. Among his interests he lists Measurement of white collar crime,” a pet peeve of mine. Also on the website:  “Charles Wellford has been named a lifetime National Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) “in recognition of extraordinary service to the National Academies in its role as advisor to the nation in matters of science, engineering, and health.” He was the first criminologist to receive this honor. Dr. Wellford served for six years as chair of the NAS Committee on Law and Justices.”

Go Dr. Wellford!

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→ 3 CommentsTags: Cold Case Investigation Facts · Homicide Facts ·

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 slamdunk // May 8, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Good article. Trying to compare homicide totals in UCR without an understanding of what gets counted can be a frustrating experience.

    It is not surprising that the University of Maryland was ranked the #1 Criminology program in the country according to the 2009 best issues of US News and World Report.

  • 2 Eric // May 13, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Thanks for finding this–it’s interesting and answers many of the questions from previous posts.

    The article is very diplomatic about the manipulation of numbers it describes, probably because researchers and journalists need the cooperation of the police. But anyone who got through 4th grade knows enough about percentages to understand that if you count the cleared cases regardless of the year they occurred, you have to count the uncleared ones, too.

    As the John Acropolis article on your page makes clear, the police are happy to keep uncleared cases open if it suits their purposes, but they’re also happy to ignore them when that’s convenient.

    And, as we’ve discussed before, ‘cleared’ doesn’t mean ‘solved’, let alone ‘conviction of the murderer’.

    This isn’t accidental confusion. It’s public relatins b******t. I know that solving murders is hard, and that there are dedicated, heroically persistent detectives trying their best. But the ‘protect the herd’ mentality that governs police departments is the reason that many citizens don’t trust cops, and don’t volunteer information. Acknowledging the corruption, brutality, and incompetence that are a part (a small part, I hope) of all departments, as well as the truth about crime statistics would build credibility. Number games like these make them look self-serving and dishonest.

  • 3 HelpUsFindKellisue // May 15, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Kellisue has been missing for 7 months, we are no closer today to finding her than we were 7 months ago. We are trying to raise awareness about her. She has a 9 year old little girl who is missing her a whole bunch. We are planning a search on June 28, 2009.

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