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Murders Of Black Women, Girls Rise As Police Clearance Rates Fall

When homicides surged during the pandemic, murders of Black women and girls rose more dramatically than did other groups. At the same time, the proportion of those killings solved by police fell faster than other demographics in nearly two dozen cities.

Some 2,077 Black women and girls were killed in 2021, a 51 percent increase over 2019 and the largest jump of any racial or gender group in that period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, the number of killings nationwide increased 34 percent during that time frame.T\

The number of unsolved homicides of Black women and girls rose by 89 percent in 2020 and 2021 compared with 2018 and 2019, according to a survey of 21 U.S. cities by The Wall Street Journal. \

The numbers are confounding to law enforcement, criminologists and community groups

Among variables that might have contributed to the changes were staffing shortages in police departments and deepening distrust of police in some Black communities after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Police have typically solved more homicides of women than men. Killings of women often involve husbands, boyfriends or ex-partners, who are quickly identified. Men are more often killed in gang- and drug-related shootings or fights with strangers, cases that can be harder to crack.

Amid a quarter-century high in gun violence during the pandemic, more Black women and girls were caught in the crossfire of drive-by shootings and other attacks where they weren’t always the intended targets.

Deputy Los Angeles Chief Kris Pitcher said that there have been too many killings and not enough detectives to keep pace. The 752 homicides in Los Angeles in 2020-2021 marked a 46 percent increase over 2018-2019.

Many police officers U.S. have retired or exited the profession over the past two years, leaving departments short-handed. It takes years for detectives to gain the expertise of those who left.

In cities surveyed by the Journal, the share of homicide cases for Black women and girls cleared by police—either by arrest, charges filed or identification of a suspect beyond the reach of authorities—fell to 59 percent in 2020 and 2021 from 67 percent in 2018 and 2019. Clearance rates for white women and girls fell from 78 percent to 73 percent over the same period. Some states and cities have started examining differences in homicides and clearance rates for cases involving Black women and girls. The Los Angeles City Council in May ordered the city’s civil rights department to analyze the issue. An outcry from Black victims’ families erupted last January, after officials announced a $50,000 reward for help solving the fatal stabbing of a 24-year-old white UCLA graduate student. Private donations raised the reward to $250,000. A suspect was quickly apprehended via surveillance footage. Families of two murdered Black women in Los Angeles demanded rewards in their cases


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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