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Boston, Massachusetts, Strategies for Policing Innovation II - Improving Homicide Clearance Rates: The Value of Analysis to Guide Investments in Investigative Policies and Practices

NCJ Number
Anthony A. Braga; Desiree Dusseault
Date Published
July 2017
19 pages

This report discusses the features and benefits of the Boston Police Department's efforts to improve its homicide clearances under funding from the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA's) Smart Policing Initiative (SPI).


The first step was a problem analysis that included an investigation of 314 homicide victimizations from 2007 to 2011. A homicide advisory committee was created to identify gaps in homicide investigative processes and conduct research on best practices. The committee decided to draw mostly from the United Kingdom's model for homicide investigations. Using the results from the problem analysis, in January 2012, the Boston SPI team implemented a multi-pronged response (Boston SPI II) to improve the BPD's homicide clearances. The response included expanding the homicide unit's staff 35.7 percent, providing extensive additional training in cutting-edge investigative and forensic science techniques, developing and implementing standardized investigative protocols, and holding monthly peer review sessions to discuss all open homicide investigations. A comprehensive evaluation of the homicide clearance intervention produced several positive findings, including an increase in the BPD's homicide clearance rate by 10-18 percent, which was statistically significant. This improvement was not observed in the rest of Massachusetts or nationally. 3 figures, 1 table, and 28 notes