Half of This Year's Murders in Miami-Dade Went Unsolved

Only 52 of 102 reported murders in the area resulted in arrests.
Only 52 of 102 reported murders in the area resulted in arrests. Photo by code6d / Getty Images
There are few worse places in Florida to be the victim of a crime — and few better places to be a criminal — than Miami-Dade County. That's according to new midyear crime statistics released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reveal that Miami-Dade has one of the lowest crime-solving rates in the state.

In the first six months of 2019, just 52 of 102 reported murders in the area resulted in arrests. For aggravated assaults, only 37 percent of cases ended up with a suspect in handcuffs. For rapes, the clearance rate was just 21 percent. And the numbers get bleaker the further you dive into the data.

Overall, Miami-Dade's clearance rate — the percentage of reported crimes that are resolved by police either by arrest or other means — was an abysmal 17 percent during the first six months of 2019. In other words, a full 83 percent of crimes in the area went unsolved. Across Florida, only Martin, Glades, and Gilchrist Counties were worse, with crime clearance rates of 16.4, 16.5, and 13.3 percent. The statewide rate was 25.8 percent.

The figures represent all police departments in Miami-Dade County, with the exception of Bal Harbour, Golden Beach, and Miami-Dade Public Schools, which did not report their numbers to the state.

It's hard to believe, but the latest figures come as slightly good news for Miami-Dade, which at this point last year was the worst in the state at solving crimes, with a clearance rate of just 16.2 percent. The 2017 midyear rate was only 15.4 percent.

In Miami-Dade, total reported crimes dropped by 1 percentage point from 2018, but violent crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, saw a slight increase.

Nationwide, 61.6 percent of murders were cleared by arrest or other means in 2017, the last year for which FBI data is available. That's well above Miami-Dade's arrest rate of 50.9 percent for reported murders. (Midyear crime statistics did not include a breakdown of rare nonarrest resolutions to reported crimes.)

In rape cases, Miami-Dade's arrest rate of 21 percent was significantly lower than the national clearance rate of 34.5 percent. The same goes for its arrest record in cases of aggravated assault, which was more than 16 percentage points lower than the national rates.

The largest county in the state, Miami-Dade saw far and away the most crimes reported the first half of 2019: 48,560 total, compared to 27,975 in Broward County and 17,527 in Palm Beach County. Statewide, total reported crimes dropped by more than 6 percent.

As New Times noted in its assessment of midyear clearance rates in 2018, despite clearance rates remaining at troubling lows, police in Miami-Dade continue to arrest thousands of people each year for trespassing or possessing small quantities of marijuana instead of issuing them citations. Last month, New Times reported that Miami-area police haven't stopped arresting people for minor pot possession despite being told by State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle that her office would no longer prosecute such cases. Rundle's announcement came in response to a state bill that legalized hemp in Florida, making enforcement of marijuana laws almost impossible for officials. 
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Manuel Madrid is a former staff writer for Miami New Times. The child of Venezuelan immigrants, he grew up in Pompano Beach. He studied finance at Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a writing fellow for the magazine The American Prospect in Washington, D.C.