The Associated Press
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- For the first time since 1984, the city's
police department was on the verge Wednesday of ending its year with
a clearance of every homicide case of the past year.
Of Wichita's 21 homicide cases in 2003, prosecutors determined three
of the killings were justified and two were murder-suicides. Police
cleared the rest of the homicides with an arrest.
"We're not going to celebrate" because 21 people died violently, said
police Capt. Nelson Mosley. "But we're proud of the good work that
goes into solving these."
A 100 percent homicide clearance rate is rare. Of the 13,561
homicides nationwide reported to the FBI in 2002, authorities cleared
64 percent with arrests. Over the past six years, the clearance rate
in Wichita has ranged from 71 percent in 2001 to 96 percent in 1999.
"It's very unusual to have a 100 percent clearance rate in a large
city," said Charles Wellford, a University of Maryland criminology
professor who helped conduct a national study on homicide clearance
Wellford said about one-third of Wichita's homicides in 2003 were
gang- or drug-related, which are difficult to solve because people in
those kinds of killings often fear retaliation and refuse to
cooperate with police.
Mosley, a former homicide detective who now supervises violent-crime
investigations, attributed the success to a variety of factors,
including hard work, teamwork, good luck and an experienced homicide
The department has seven detectives and a lieutenant who concentrate
on homicides, Mosley said. On average, the detectives have more than
six years of experience working homicide cases.
Every homicide case has a lead detective and information about the
case funnels through that detective, who also sits in court with the
prosecutor once the case goes to trial.
Still, Mosley said, the homicide team depends on help from others,
including detectives from other units, crime scene investigators and
"Those seven (detectives) can't track down every lead," Mosley said.
"It's got to be a team effort."
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Although clearing a homicide through an arrest doesn't guarantee that
a suspect will be convicted, it's a crucial step in seeking justice,