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Portland police see increase in solved homicide cases amid rising homicide numbers

Portland’s homicide clearance rate for 2022 was 53%, up from 48% last year. The city exceeded last year's total number of homicides in mid-December.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Despite a record number of homicides in Portland this year, detectives are solving a higher percentage of those cases, according to newly released data. As of Dec. 16, Portland’s homicide clearance rate for 2022 was 53%, up from 48% last year.

Portland Police spokesperson Sgt. Kevin Allen admitted there’s no clear explanation for the improved numbers. The bureau has added additional detectives to the homicide unit, he said, but even with the extra detectives, investigators are struggling to keep up.

Portland's homicide count for 2022 has already exceeded the city's total number of homicides for 2021, which was itself a record-breaking year.

Seneca Alexander Sr. understands the heartbreak of losing a loved one, then having to wait for answers. His 17-year-old son was shot and killed in August of 2021. Police didn't make an arrest in the case until more than a year later.

“They absolutely cannot do it alone,” said Alexander. The Portland father said it is critical for witnesses to come forward and share information with police about unsolved murders.

“As long as we’re quiet, we’re not helping anybody,” said Alexander. “This isn’t supposed to be going on. You should not be burying your children.”

Nationwide, the murder clearance rate has fallen to an all-time low. Roughly half of all murders in the U.S. go unsolved, according to FBI data. Statistics show most of those murders are committed with guns, which make them tougher to solve. There are fewer witnesses, less physical evidence and the suspect and victim often don’t know each other.

In 2021, 32% of fatal shootings in Portland were solved, compared to a 65% solve rate for homicides without a firearm.

No matter the circumstances, Alexander believes it all comes down to cooperation. Many witnesses don’t come forward because of apathy or fear of retaliation.

“It’s not snitching,” said Alexander. “It is helping your community stop a public health epidemic.”

Crime prevention experts add tips can be anonymous and will help homicide detectives solve an even higher rate of cases.

Five years ago, Portland police solved 81% of all homicides — but detectives had fewer killings to investigate. The city had 27 homicides in 2017, compared to nearly 100 so far in 2022.

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