Cold Case Homicides in Each State |

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Case Closed: How the US Fares in Homicide Clearance Rates

Crime solving may be one of the toughest jobs in the world, so when it’s done successfully, there’s a lot to celebrate. But for myriad reasons, some cases close slowly or go cold entirely—including cases of what is arguably the most sinister crime of all, homicide.

To give you an idea of homicide trends and corresponding police investigations in your state, the team at Clearlink, an authorized retailer of Vivint smart home security, conducted a study of what percent of murder cases were closed or “cleared” in your state in 2017.

These clearance rates don’t tell the whole story of why crime is committed or how it’s solved. But the data can provide your city, your state, and your leaders with food for thought about how to improve the overall sense of safety and peace in your community.

Top States for Cleared vs. Uncleared Homicides in 2017

“Cleared” = case closed, either by arrest or exceptional means

Data Highlights 

  • State homicide clearance rates ranged from 100% (Wyoming police reported 14 murders and 14 murder clearances in 2017) to 37.3% (Ohio police reported 670 murders and 250 murder clearances in 2017).
  • Population size doesn’t appear to correlate with clearance rates. Of the top 10 states with most cleared homicides in 2017, two are among the most populated states in the country, while five are among the least populated states.
  • Also, four of the most populous states in America fall midrange for best clearance rates, ranking between 20th and 35th.
  • The top five states for cleared homicides had notably low murder counts—four had fewer than 25 murders, while the fifth had fewer than 75.
  • Of the 10 states with the lowest clearance rates in 2017, three states had notably low homicide counts—under 100.
  • Most states cleared the equivalent of half or more of the number of reported homicides in 2017. Only six states fell below 50% clearance.

Important Considerations

  • The number of cleared offenses in 2017 does not represent a 1:1 ratio of persons arrested. For example, one perpetrator may commit and be arrested for several homicides, while in other cases, a single homicide may result in the arrest of multiple accomplices or conspirators.
  • Since police investigations don’t always open and close within neat calendar years, the number of clearances an agency reports in a year may include cases still open from previous years.
  • The FBI standardizes clearance rates as best it can, but self-reporting is always subject to bias or error. For example, some cities count warrants for arrest in their clearance rates, even if the arrest is not made by year’s end, and then count the official arrest in the following year’s clearance rates.
  • Since the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting database publishes results based only on voluntary reports from police agencies, the database doesn’t include figures from every police jurisdiction in the country.
  • Clearance rates do not have any bearing on whether the suspects were proven guilty by a jury and sentenced in court; they are based only on whether law enforcement arrested or gathered enough information to arrest an offender.

Countless variables affect how many homicides occur in a jurisdiction and how efficiently police handle the cases. The rankings we compiled, rather than defining absolute safety by state, should be considered relevant data points in the full picture.


When a criminal case is cleared, it means the case has been closed by arrest or “exceptional means.” 

If a homicide case is closed by arrest, at least one person must be arrested, charged, and turned over to the court for prosecution.

If the case is closed by exceptional means, the police must have gathered enough evidence to arrest, charge, and turn over an offender to the court, identified the offender’s exact location, and then encountered a circumstance that prevented them from arresting and charging the offender (for example, if the offender fled the country).

To find the top states for cleared homicides, we first used the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting database to tally homicides reported in 2017 by local law enforcement agencies and cleared homicides reported in 2017 by the same agencies.

We then grouped the tallies by state boundary lines, calculated each state’s clearance percentage, and ranked each state by percentage.

We limited our results to police agencies that filed at least six full months of complete offense reports in 2017. No other variables were considered in this ranking.


StateHomicides CommittedHomicides ClearedHomicide Clearance RateHomicide Clearance Ranking
North Dakota10990.0%3
South Dakota232087.0%4
New York54342177.5%7
North Carolina55042677.5%8
New Hampshire141071.4%12
Washington DC1168270.7%15
South Carolina34924169.1%18
New Mexico1418761.7%32
Rhode Island201155.0%43
New Jersey32316049.5%45
West Virginia793544.3%47

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