City Desk

Post: MPD’s Homicide Closure Rate “Makes Things Seem Much Better Than They Are”

The Post releases a report today on the extremely high homicide case closure numbers being posted by MPD. Under Chief Cathy Lanier, the department says it's reached a 94 percent closure rate—far higher than the 65 percent national average—but the Post says the calculations don't show a true picture.

But an examination of District homicides found that the department’s closure rate is a statistical mishmash that makes things seem much better than they are. The District had 108 homicides last year, police records show. A 94 percent closure rate would mean that detectives solved 102 of them. But only 62 were solved as of year’s end, for a true closure rate of 57 percent, according to records reviewed by The Post.

D.C. police achieved the high closure rate last year by including about 40 cases from other years that were closed in 2011.

The cases date from 1989, records show. The pattern was first reported by a local Web site,, in December.

As Homicide Watch D.C. wrote at the time, under the math MPD is using, "If 10 homicides were to occur in 2012, and a police department made arrests in five of those cases, but also closed five homicides that occurred in 2011, the case closure rate for 2012 would be 100 percent."

Which, obviously, is a problem. But one that's not exactly a surprise. And it reminds me of an episode of This American Life where a New York City cop exposes the funny counting going on in his precinct. The police in that case were frighteningly corrupt, but one detail is especially relevant to the MPD homicide closure rate: The political system incentivizes police to make themselves look ever more effective, which is how you get to ridiculously high numbers like 94 percent.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • OllieSeymore

    MPD has been doing this tricky math for years. Also they reclass the crimes so the numbers can look better.
    For instance....there was several cars broken into in my neigborhood: instead of MPD recording them as Theft from Auto it is recorded as Damaged to Property! MPD is full of crap!
    This number game by MPD needs to stop! It will not stop because MPD is ran by Crooks, Liars and Theives!

  • http://none olliedumdum

    Probably about 12 to 15 years ago there were stories about how low the DC Homicide closure rate was, using the same UCR calculation. Now that it's up, Lanier is getting heat. I don't understand she does not make up how the closure rate is calculated. To all you idiots, it's the FBI who does this. DC Police has a closure rate of 94%. The post article was reaching for something that is not there. They should be held accountable for the inaccurate reporting that they did. They make it seem that she just made up this 94%, which is false.

  • DC Lee

    The reason she is "getting heat" olliedumdum is because when the FBI reviews her crime numbers and says DC crime is up, she loudly declares how flawed the UCR system is. However, when the same flawed UCR provides an unrealistic homicide closure rate she brags about what a great job she is doing. She cannot have it both ways!