Boston, Massachusetts

Improving Homicide Clearances Using an Experimental Design

Boston Police Department officers at a crime scene

Boston Police Department officers at a crime scene.

Site Spotlight Report:

Boston Police Patch

Site LE Agency
Boston Police Department

Site Researcher
Anthony Braga, Ph.D., Northeastern University, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Site Focus

SPI Strategy
Organizational change, Offender-based policing

Site Cohort

Site Profile
Large urban area of 48.28 square miles and a population of 621,359

Project Overview

The City of Boston had a 44-percent homicide clearance rate in 2011, almost 20 percent below the national average. The Boston Police Department (BPD) also lacked formal training for homicide investigators that included clear protocols and policies. In response to these concerns, the Boston SPI aimed to implement a rigorous statistical analysis to determine whether new investigative processes and procedures would improve homicide clearance rates relative to traditional investigative operations. The project focused on problem analysis of homicide clearances, implementation of homicide processes, and the development of new homicide investigative procedures.

Data Highlight

  • In 2010, 50 percent of homicides were generated by gang violence, and another 22 percent involved drug-related motives.
  • In 2011, Boston had a homicide clearance rate of 44 percent.
  • The impact evaluation revealed that through SPI, the Boston Police Department increased its adjusted homicide clearance rate by 18 percent.
  • Homicides were 43 percent more likely to be cleared during the intervention than before.