Homicides in Cleveland are on the rise amid a detective shortage, making it difficult for police to solve crimes and carry out justice.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner recorded 83 homicides in the city through July 23, with just 18 detectives assigned to deal with the cases.
According to the Department of Justice, the Cleveland Police Department should have at least 38 detectives investigating the murders.
Cleveland officials say that the clearance rate for homicides last year was at 60%.
The department has historically struggled to keep its homicide unit fully staffed.
In 2019, the unit had just 14 detectives.
A study by the Police Executive Research Forum showed that the lack of investigators has been shown to correlate with the declining clearance rate of murder cases.
In 2012 — the year when the department had 19 detectives — police solved 77 of 100 homicides. Compared with 2017, when the department had just 14 officers, they solved around one of every two cases.
But it’s not just detectives that the department is short. The CPD is struggling with general officer shortages as well, being down 200 officers at a level of around 1,350.
The department has seen a steady exodus of officers moving to suburban departments that offer more pay.
Henry Hilow, an attorney for the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, said the dwindling ranks has been a problem over the past several years and believes the department needs more support from city leadership.
“The city of Cleveland right now is down so many police officers, even if you’re filling spots with detectives, you’re losing spots with patrolmen and other services,” Hilow said. “And, you know, there comes a point in time where all these issues have come together, and this is the result.”
Chairman of Cleveland City Council’s Safety Committee and Ward 8 Councilman Michael Polensek admitted that the shortage of detectives is increasing their caseload and adding more stress to the job.
Unfortunately, the caseload is expected to get bigger as the city is on track to meet or possibly surpass last year’s 170 murders.
Violent crime, in general, has plagued the city — 1,604 felonious assault incidents were recorded through July 23, with 706 of those involving guns.
Polensek offered a few suggestions to address the crimewave, such as partnering with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the sheriff’s department to deploy more officers to the city, as well as partnering with the U.S. marshals to arrest more criminals in the act of violent crimes.
“These law enforcement agencies can come together and put forward a surgical plan of action against the people who are perpetrating these crimes in our neighborhoods because we know it’s the repeat offenders,” Polensek said.