Chicago’s top cop claims CPD solved 20 of 26 murders in January. It actually solved 3.

Update February 9, 2024: Late this afternoon, the Chicago Police Department provided a written statement from Supt. Larry Snelling regarding this matter: “This was my miscommunication and I own it. 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.”

CHICAGO — In two separate public appearances last week, Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling made a remarkable claim: The department’s detectives had already solved over 70% of 2024’s murders.

He said it once during an appearance at the Economic Club of Chicago. He repeated it at a town hall hosted by the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, the city agency that selected him last year as a finalist for the top cop job.

Depending on which meeting you were at, he said the department had solved either 19 out of 25 or 20 out of 26.

Newspapers, TV stations, and online news outlets published Snelling’s claim without an ounce of skepticism.

And that’s too bad. Because the Chicago Police Department had not solved 19 or 20 of this year’s murders. As of January 25, it had solved three. Our source? The Chicago Police Department.

Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling briefs the media about a shooting that left an officer and a smash-and-grab suspect injured in the Gold Coast on January 8, 2024. | Facebook

Asked about the mind-blowing discrepancy on Thursday afternoon, two Chicago Police Department executives confirmed that Snelling’s statements were inaccurate. They said Snelling did not intend to mislead the public. Instead, there had been a “miscommunication” about the arrest figures, and the matter will be addressed internally.

But the headlines have been written, and you can bet that all the media outlets that parroted Snelling’s inflated claims without verification will not take even a moment to set the record straight.

Like the Sun-Times. Reporting on Snelling’s appearance at the town hall, the paper included his murder clearance rate claim directly under the story’s headline: “Nineteen of 25 homicides in 2024 have been cleared by CPD, the chief says at a meeting of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, where questions of open cases and youth violence were raised.”

Block Club Chicago spread Snelling’s misinformation, too: “Snelling said the murder clearance rate for January is about 70 percent, with 19 of the 25 homicides committed this year cleared.”

The Chicago Crusader got in on the action: “But later, Snelling provided some clarification for that statistic, saying that the 74 percent represents the first 30 days in January, where the Chicago police solved 20 out of 26 homicide cases so far this year.”

CBS2 also copy-pasted the superintendent’s information: “In a conversation last week at the Economic Club of Chicago, Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling gave the black-and-white numbers. ‘Right now, our clearance rate for homicides is at 74 percent,’ Snelling said. ‘These are cases where individuals have been arrested and charged.’ But that 74 percent represents just the month of January – in which the Chicago Police solved 20 out of 26 homicide cases.”

Upon hearing Snelling’s claims, we were pretty skeptical. Anyone with a basic understanding of CPD’s historically abysmal murder arrest rate would be.

So, we submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for this year’s murder clearances. Exactly why none of the “professional journalists” in this town didn’t do the same thing is a mystery.

CPD sent the records to us on Wednesday. It shows that the department had cleared three of this year’s murders as of January 25, all by arresting and charging the suspects.

The department also cleared six murders from previous years during January “exceptionally” by “bar to prosecution.” That means CPD thinks they know who committed the murder, but they can’t convince the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to file charges.

According to the data, detectives in January also cleared nine cases from 2022 and 2023 with arrests.

But Snelling made it clear during both appearances that he was claiming the department had already solved 19 or 20 of the murders committed during January 2024.

During the Economic Club luncheon, both the moderator, Sun-Times reporter Tom Schuba, and an audience member asked Snelling if he was sure about the January figures. Snelling not only stood by the figures but also told Schuba he was actually expecting people to doubt the data.

Schuba: So you were talking, touting the homicide clearance rate, um, you said it’s somewhere in the 70s. Now that that includes the exceptional clearances, correct?

Snelling: No. I knew that question was coming…these are arrests that have been made, uh, this year

Schuba: And none were exceptionally closed because the prime suspect died or …

Snelling: No, because these, these are, these, there’s a couple that have happened from last year when we talk about those, uh, exceptionally clear closed cases, but these are cases where individuals have been arrested and charged.

And the audience member:

Question: Yes, the clearance rate on the murders over what period of time are you coming up with a 74% clearance rate?

Snelling: The past 30 days. So out of out of, uh, 26 murders we’ve, we’ve, uh, cleared 20 of them.

Coincidentally, the CBS2 story that cited Snelling’s incorrect information was about a piece of legislation that State Rep. Kam Buckner recently introduced: the Homicide Data Transparency Act.

If passed, the law would require the state’s police departments to publish their arrest and charging information, not including “exceptionally cleared” cases that artificially run up the score.

As we reported earlier this week, CPD touted a 51.7% murder clearance rate in a press release recapping its 2023 successes. In fact, only 18% of last year’s murders have been solved with a suspect charged. The rest of the 51.7% was padding: cases “cleared exceptionally” or arrests for cases that occurred in previous years.

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About Tim Hecke 221 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com