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The Killers Among Us: Black on Black Murders Go Unsolved

The Killers Among Us: Black on Black Murders Go Unsolved

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The majority of “Black on Black” killings go unsolved.

BET’s “Unsung” is one of my favorite shows. The series takes a look at the lives of musicians who are no longer in the spotlight. The show never fails to illuminate some aspect of the performer’s life, good or bad, that wasn’t widely known. The show gives us a look at the person rather than the persona.

Allow me to propose another series idea. Let’s call the next BET series “Unsolved.” Unsolved as in the disturbing number of unsolved homicides in major cities across the United States. The vast majority of these homicide victims are Americans of African heritage. Sadly, in the overwhelming majority of these cases, the suspect shares the same ethnicity and heritage as the victim.

The raging Black on Black violence and murder happening in cities across the U.S. is well documented. Only the most intellectually dishonest, willfully ignorant, and morally bankrupt “activists” contend otherwise. What isn’t well known is just how few of these homicide cases are solved.

The police consider a case closed when an arrest and prosecution take place. Additionally, a case is deemed closed when a suspect is identified but prosecutors, for various and sundry reasons, decline to bring the criminal case against the suspect. Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Reporter David Heinzmann quotes Chicago Police sources who indicate that the agency

...currently solve about 30 percent of the city's homicides...”

Similarly, at or below par rate in other cities similar in size to Chicago. In Houston, the closure rate is 56 percent. In Philadelphia, the rate is 49 percent.

Overall the trend is not encouraging. The rate as which murders go unsolved is increasing generally across the board. Thomas Hargrove, writing Scripps News states that

Truth is homicides are less likely to be solved today than they were 40 years ago. Police fail to make an arrest in more than a third of the nation’s murders, resulting in an ever-increasing accumulation of cold cases.

Hargrove goes on to say

The FBI estimates that the homicide clearance rate in 2012 was only 64 percent, down from 90 percent reported in 1965 ...”

FBI Statistics show declining rate of closure for homicide cases

Hargrove indicates that

In many communities, it has become statistically unlikely that a murder will be solved. “

He cites, for example, Detroit in which

only 34 of its 386 homicides in 2012”

were accompanied by arrests. He also points to New Orleans which

reported solving only 15 percent of its 193 killings [in 2012].”

Hargrove identifies the extraordinary number of unsolved cases in other major cities including

Atlanta, Ga., has about 1,800 unsolved cases going back to 1965, while Phoenix, Ariz., has nearly 2,400 and Cleveland, Ohio, has about 2,100 unresolved killings still on the books.

Writing for Intellectual Takeout, Devin Foley reports that

"In 2011, the latest data officially released by the Chicago Police, there were 433 homicides. Of these, just 128 (29%) had a corresponding prosecution. "

The problem of unsolved murders of Blacks is not exclusive to the larger urban areas. A similar trend exists in suburban, predominately minority, areas also. Mother Jones documented the 2015 shooting death of Emil Smith. The 22-year-old resident of Chester, Pennsylvania was shot multiple times and killed as he exited his vehicle. In their Mother Jones article, reporters Edwin Rios AND Kai Wright state that

No one was ever arrested in connection with the crime, and odds are no one will be.”

In their article, Rios and Wright go on to state

...while Chester [,Pennsylvania] has one of the nation’s highest homicide rates, it has a far lower than average “clearance rate.” Not even one-third of last year’s 30 homicides have been solved, a rate less than half the national average.”

Furthermore, they report that in the tiny suburb of Chester, PA

Since 2005, 144 killings have gone unsolved.”


... in 2013, police solved about 86 percent of homicides in which the victim was white. For black victims, the number was just 45 percent. “

The phenomenon of the unsolved murder of young Black men does not respect celebrity and economic status. In 2007 rap pioneer and founding member Run DMC, Jason Mizell aka “DJ Jam Master Jay” was shot and killed in a recording studio in Queens, NY. His murder remains unsolved. The murders of Rap legends Christopher Wallace aka “Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, respectively, remain unsolved.

Why are so many unsolved homicides of Black victims particularly young Black men? The answer is three-fold:

  1. Alarming number of murders
  2. Unwritten Code of Silence
  3. Lack of Police manpower and resources

The Alarming Rate of Black on Black Murder

One reason – arguably the main reason --- is the sheer volume of cases in which young Black men are being killed...by other Blacks. As of this writing, more than 3282 people have been shot and more than 573 people killed in Chicago alone. (Source: Heyjackass.com) As of November 2017, Baltimore has seen a staggering 310 homicides. Of the fourteen homicides reported in Baltimore, THIS MONTH ten of the victims are Black including 9 men and two women. (Source: Baltimore Sun)

In The Independent, author Jill Leovy writes

African-American men comprise just 6 per cent of the US population, but almost 40 per cent of its murder victims.

Based on her research and interviews Jill Leovy goes on to state

In LA, their deaths are so commonplace that, if mentioned by the media at all, they tend to be dismissed as "gang-related". It suggests some lives are worth less than others.

In a 1994 study released by the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the study found that

Males age 16 to 19 were particularly at risk; their violent victimization rate was almost double the rate for white males ...”

In addition, the report states that

Black males age 12 to 24 were almost 14 times as likely to be homicide victims as were members of the general population. “

The report also reveals that

The homicide rate for older black males was … 8 times that for the general population. “

Code of Silence

Underlying the problem of unsolved homicides of Blacks is the reluctance of Blacks to cooperate with police investigations. Two main factors contribute to this unwillingness of Blacks to cooperate with the police. First, the perception, real or imagined, that the police themselves are the problem causes many in the Black Community to avoid helping police solve crimes in their own neighborhood. Writing in the Chicago Tribune, reporter David Heinzmann quotes Darren O'Brien, a former Assistant Illinois State Attorney, saying

"You run into the code of silence in the neighborhood. I've had brothers refuse to identify the killer of their own brother… ‘

The second factor is the fear of retaliation. This fear of cooperating with the police is exemplified by the tragic and brutal death of 37-year-old Charmane Wilson. The mother of eight (8) contacted Baltimore Police in reference to her son’s stolen bicycle. Police arrived to investigate and soon after they left the scene the killer emerged and shot her multiple times. Reporter Adam May of WBAL reported that Wilson’s murder happened

...moments after police left Wilson’s home ...”

The unwillingness of Blacks to assist police during murder investigations makes the task of solving them nearly impossible. Further examples of this hesitance are found in New York City’s growing backlog of unsolved homicides. New York Daily News reports quote John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor, a retired NYPD Homicide squad commander, Joseph Giacalone, saying

...murders in the city’s rougher neighborhoods are often more difficult to solve in part because of the iron-clad street code against talking to police, ..”

The Lack of Police Manpower and Resources

The sheer frequency of homicides in the inner cities is taxing the resources of many major city police departments. This comes at a time when many departments are facing significant numbers of vacancies on their rosters. The shortfall of officers results from a number of factors including accelerating rates of retirement and a decidedly hostile Obama-era anti-cop climate the blunts recruitment.


The shortage of experienced homicide detectives, in particular, has had a predictably dire impact on New York City’s ability to close homicide cases. Reporters for the New York Daily News reports that

The NYPD’s Cold Case Squad had about 50 detectives when it was formed in 1996. Now there are about eight.”

Additionally, New York Daily News quotes Michael Palladino saying,

...said around 3,000 seasoned detectives retired in the two years following the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.”

In addition, Palladino states that

Another 800 detectives were shifted to the newly created counterterrorism unit ...”

The result is that fewer experienced crime solvers are available to respond in the early crucial moments, the proverbial “First 48” minutes of a homicide investigation. Palladino also states that

...the number of detectives on the force has dropped from 7,151 in 2001 down to 5,137 and the number of homicide squad detectives has been cut in half to just 74...”

In conclusion,  the factors that conspire to hinder police closure of homicide cases means that killers walk freely among us.