Whether a Murder Is Solved in New York City Depends a Whole Lot on the Victim’s Race

Written by Nicole Flatow

As the number of homicides dropped in New York City in the 1990s, so, too, did the percentage of murders considered solved. But in boroughs outside Manhattan with a large number of homicides involving minority victims, the number of unsolved cases is dramatically higher. In those cases where the race is known, New York City police have solved twice as many murders involving white victims (86 percent) as they have ones with black victims (45 percent), according to a New York Daily News analysis. The percent of solved crimes with Hispanic victims is also much lower at 54 percent.

This is in part because of drastic cuts to detective budgets that have fallen predominantly on particular precincts. Across the city, as the number of detectives dropped from 7,151 down to 5,137, the number of homicide squad detectives was cut in half to 74. A squad for cold cases was once 50 people but is now just eight. Many retired in the years following the 9/11 attacks. But many others were shifted to other priorities, either to the newly developed counter-terrorism unit, or to handling lower-level crimes such as petty larceny.

In the 63rd precinct, Dustin Yeates was killed last year while standing outside an East Flatbush club, and his case remains unsolved. His mother, Donna Rayside, has contributed $8,000 of her own money to the $10,000 reward available for information about the murder. Yeates is one of many unsolved murders in that precinct, which has resources astronomically lower than Manhattan for solving crimes. It has just 12 detectives who handled about 1,500 cases on all crimes. And it has 1.5 detectives devoted to eight homicides, as compared to rates from five to 26 detectives per homicide in Manhattan. Rayside believes cops sweep murders like this under the rug as just “one black guy against another,” she told the New York Daily News.

The race disparity tracks those in other facets of the criminal justice system. In 2013, 32 of the 39 executions involved a white victim, while just one white person was executed for killing only a black man.

But the total decline of homicide detective resources has also contributed to the problem. Officers re-assigned to smaller crimes can yield more measurable results by netting people for small crimes like marijuana possession, even if those stops and arrests do little to make the city safer.

And “solved” in this context means that police have cleared the case by identifying a suspect, who will then be charged and have the chance to defend himself. Police have rightly pointed out that, public pressure notwithstanding, it is better to have no suspect at all than the wrong suspect.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago


rita b.
Rita B4 years ago

The article mentioned that many detectives have been switched to "anti-terrorism" I would be interested to know if anything real is accomplished in this area? Also, the NSA now employs 100s of thousands of people, why can't they handle the "terrorism" and let local police do their jobs like solving murder crimes? I guess the NSA is too busy monitoring video gamers.

Yes, racism is still very prevalent but it seems money is also a factor as many of the wealthiest people in NYC live in Manhattan.

Anne M.
anne M4 years ago

Oh well, what else is new in the USofA?

Dianne Turner
Dianne Turner4 years ago

The color of a persons skin should not matter; black, white. green, yellowor purple; all of us have the right to live our lives in safety and the families of murder victims all have the right to know everything possible will be done to bring the guilty to justice! EQUALITY FOR ALL; NO MATTER A PERSONS SKIN COLORING!

John B.
John B4 years ago

Thanks for providing the informative article and links by Ms. Flatow. These stats do not surprise me in the least.

Cheryl A. Aaron
Cheryl A. Aaron4 years ago

It is sad to read comments by people who still believe the lie that the Black community will not cooperate with police investigators who are trying to solve crimes.
Many police offices are not always known to be fair minded when dealing Black witnesses. Many times, if a person comes forward with information, that person's name, address and phone number will suddenly become common knowledge on the street leaked by someone in that station or they are falsely arrested due to the prejudice of the cops.
A crime's solving should not be tied to a victim's race. Also, many people writing comments are trying to justify what cannot be justified based on where someone lives. As I have said before, sometimes the police officers are a part of the problem which would account for some crimes not being solved...peace.

Pamela Tracy
Pamela Tracy4 years ago

Actually, it seems to me I read that NY City is now mostly minority race population. That includes upper class minority races. Which would make it interesting if the real figures of prosecution would be measured with population accurately. There are many undocumented people in NY City also. I am quick to suspect numbers. And, what about minority on minority crime, also ,,,,, I have known minority on minority crimes, so what is the ratio to include all of the above.

Past Member
Nina S4 years ago

Ridiculous! Is there still someone that does not understand that we are all humans? Why is this so hard to understand? For goodness sake, we're in the 21 Century.. No wonder this planet is in trouble..

Serafim B. T.

For me it’s not surprising, when actual number of staff working in the criminal investigation and the police officers are small will be normal that the number of solved cases will being more smallest...

Anne Moran
Anne Moran4 years ago

Cold cases break your heart...

They probably find 1 perp out of ten, and this is after YEARS of investigation, and it usually involves several detectives, on said case...

They just don't have the manpower to do this...

Also, when gangs are involved, nobody talks for fear of reprisal...

And,, most gangs are made up of minorities...