The head of Chicago’s police department vastly overstated the number of January homicides solved by the department’s detectives, touting a 76% clearance rate to residents at a public safety forum last month.
“Of the homicides we’ve had this year, which is 25, 19 of those have been cleared already,” Superintendent Larry Snelling told West Side residents at the Jan. 30 forum, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
The next day, the outlet reported, he told the Economic Club of Chicago that 20 of the 26 homicides that had been reported in the past 30 days had been solved.
When questioned about the number, he told members of the group that all 20 solved cases led to arrests and charges, the outlet reported.
Superintendent Larry Snelling, center, is a 28-year member of the Chicago Police Department and previously served as the department’s chief of counterterrorism. (John J. Kim/Chicago Sun-Times)
But last Friday, the department released numbers showing that only three homicides that were reported in 2024 had been solved.
“This was my miscommunication, and I own it,” Snelling wrote in a statement. “My goal in discussing these cases was to bring attention to the victims and communities plagued by the trauma of violence. My miscommunication should not overshadow the great work being done by the Bureau of Detectives to bring justice to the victims and a measure of closure to their families.”
It appears Snelling conflated numbers – although 19 homicide cases were, indeed, cleared in 2024, 16 of those resolved cases stemmed from incidents from the previous year.
Superintendent Larry Snelling admitted that he’d overstated his department’s homicide clearance rate last month. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
A police spokesperson also told the outlet that Snelling’s error had been “rectified and corrected internally.”
It is unclear whether any of these cleared cases have led to arrests or charges.
Detectives are able to clear a case “exceptionally” when a suspect is dead, police believe they know who did it but don’t make an arrest, or prosecutors refuse to bring charges against a suspect, the Sun-Times reported.
Snelling said that his error “should not overshadow the great work being done by the Bureau of Detectives to bring justice to the victims and a measure of closure to their families.” (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto)
In 2021, Chicago police made arrests in about half of 400 homicide cases closed that year, according to the outlet, while 397 homicides went unsolved.
At the time, then-Superintendent David Brown frequently noted that his department “cleared” more murder cases that year than it had in two decades, the Sun-Times previously reported.
Chicago saw a 12.9% decrease in homicides in 2023 from the previous year, Fox 32 reported. Of 617 cases in 2023, detectives solved 319, according to department data. There were 709 homicides recorded in 2022.