I hate to start off 2011 by going after the Toronto Police, but what can I do? Toronto Police continue to have their priorities all screwed up, and the Murder/Homicide Clearance Rate (or Murder Solve Rate) for 2010 reached a new historic low, leaving Toronto's shattered families as the victims in a Toronto Police policy travesty.
Here's the story from the Toronto Star:
Toronto Police ‘struggling’ to solve murders
By the end of 2010, red was the dominant colour on the white tally board inside the Toronto Police homicide department.
Red represents the number of unsolved homicides, leaving detectives frustrated and citizens concerned about the killers who still live among us.
The total number of victims this past year was statistically about average — 60, two shy of last year's total, but down from 85 in 2007, or 89 in 1991, the deadliest year in Toronto's history.
But following a disturbing trend, the “clearance” rate continues to decline, with arrests made in only 26 of 60 of the city's homicides.
“We are struggling to solve murders,” acknowledged one veteran Toronto homicide detective who asked to remain anonymous.
In the '60s, approximately 95 per cent of homicides were solved, falling to about 80 per cent in the '80s, and continuing a downward trend in the '90s and this century. By 2003, Toronto's clearance rate hit a historic low of 53 per cent, inching upward to 54 per cent last year, and sliding to 44 per cent in 2010.
Leaving aside the intractable problem of reluctant witnesses, one homicide insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested that the police service would do best to look within to explain why there's more red this year than ever before.
“Would it not be obvious to someone in charge that we're underperforming?” states the officer. “We face huge challenges and have not stepped up to that task.”
The officer's take is that the homicide unit is understaffed and under-resourced and gets little recognition and support from the senior command, who have made uniform policing and greater visibility in the community a service priority.
“‘Detectives' in this organization is a dirty word.”
The Toronto Star also released another related article which discusses some of the potential causes of this decline in the murder clearance rate:
Is Toronto’s homicide squad losing its lustre?
This gritty and fascinating world, the stuff of movies and novels — once considered the pinnacle of police work — has apparently lost its lustre with a new generation of officers.
“It's not so much ‘can we fill jobs here?’ We can, but not like years ago when candidates were lining up. This is what everybody aspired to and it wasn't easy to get into,” says one veteran, who asked to remain anonymous.
What has changed? For one thing, the Toronto Police Service, after a wave of retirements over the past decade, is much younger across the board, and many of those newer officers see police work as more of a career than a calling.
They're in it for the prestige of promotions and the money. More than 700 — and not all high-ranking officers — pulled in $100,000-plus last year, many without the stress and aggravation associated with the homicide squad. They don't want to be called in the middle of the night, or on Christmas Eve, to some godforsaken corner of the city where a fellow citizen lies lifeless, riddled with bullets, slashed to the bone or beaten to a pulp.
There's also more money to be made in uniform, through assignments such as paid duty, and you have far more control of your life with stable hours, plus “you hang your stress up at the end of the day.”
In homicide, “a case starts and everything else is put on hold. When they weigh what they've seen, they decide it's not worth it.”
It is also widely recognized that there are better opportunities for promotion in uniform, particularly at a time when senior management is placing a greater emphasis on officers having a higher visibility in the community.
Earlier in 2010, I published 2 posts which discussed this exact topic, Toronto Police: Traffic Enforcement More Lucrative than Murder Investigations... and Toronto Traffic Police Can Make $190 Minimum per Traffic Ticket Issued!!! , and now more than ever I am convinced that these are the reasons behind this horrifying trend. I took a lot of heat for these posts, but whether it offends people or not, you can't argue with facts.
Until something is done about this priority screw-up, we will continue to see this decline, and that's not good news for Toronto families.
PS: For more information on the the actual report that the Toronto Star article was based on, you can review it at: International Criminal Justice Review - December 2010 - Explaining the Changing Nature of Homicide Clearance in Canada.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkmoose/2565891889/sizes/l/in/photostream/ by PinkMoose on flickr