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Baltimore County Police: Cited by Feds for Ability to Solve Crimes

The Baltimore County Police Department was assessed and commended by the Department of Justice for high clearance rates of homicides and violent crimes.

Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson announced a Department of Justice study highlighted his department's ability to solve homicides and violent crimes. (Credit: BCPD)
Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson announced a Department of Justice study highlighted his department's ability to solve homicides and violent crimes. (Credit: BCPD)
By Brian Hooks

Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson, assessing the year for his department, cited a little-reported study by the Department of Justice that highlighted his department, among a handful across the country, for its ability to solve crimes.

The study, released in September, focused on the best practices of departments with some of the highest "clearance" rates over the past several years—including agencies from Denver, Houston, Jacksonville, Richmond, Sacramento County and San Diego.

While neighboring Baltimore City had just over 35 homicides per 100,000 people in 2012, the homicide rate in Baltimore County totaled just 3.7 last year, and averaged less than 3.5 for the past five years. This means BCPD investigates about 30 homicides a year.

The DOJ study found, over the past five years, BCPD has a "clearance" rate of almost 90 percent with homicides.

A "clearance" is when a case is solved, because the perpetrator was identified and was either arrested, died or the incident was found justifiable.

"The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) wanted to understand how some agencies were so successful in their homicide investigations," the report said.

According to the study, while the national homicide clearance rate is 65 percent, the clearance rate in Baltimore County from 2008 to 2010 averaged at 91 percent. In 2011, the clearance rate for BCPD was 83 percent and then jumped to more than 95 percent in 2012.

"The ability to solve crime starts and ends with hiring, training, retraining and retaining quality investigators," said Chief Johnson, in a press release.

The BCPD clearance rate was not only shown to excel at solving homicides, but also solving other violent crimes:

  • Rape (40.1 percent nationally): 69.7 percent
  • Robbery (28.1 percent nationally): 48.4 percent
  • Aggravated assault (55.8 percent nationally): 84.1 percent

The DOJ study concluded that these successful departments shared many attributes, including a rich culture of accountability and professionalism.

"Resources can also contribute to greater success; however, this is also often an excuse," the study said. "Stated simply, some agencies just do the job better."

The study concluded that struggling agencies can benefit from maintaining rigorous training standards, and officers should have a minimum three years of patrol experience before becoming eligible for investigator training.

"The work our investigators are doing is as good as, if not better than, that of any agency in the nation," Johnson said. "I hope that our citizens are as appreciative of this as I am."

Read the full 54-page DOJ study online here.

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