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When a Cleared Rape Is Not Cleared: A Multilevel Study of Arrest and Exceptional Clearance

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 31 Issue: 9 Dated: May 2016 Pages: 1767-1792
S. M. Walfield
Date Published
May 2016
26 pages
Since rape remains one of the most underreported and least likely to be cleared of the violent crimes, it is of paramount importance to understand the factors associated with the likelihood of a case being cleared by law enforcement, so this study used data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS), as well as a multilevel modeling approach to examine the relationship between victim, offender, incident, and police department characteristics, contrasting the two types of clearance: arrest and exceptional clearance.
"Exceptional clearance" occurs due to reasons outside of law enforcement's control and despite being considered cleared, the offender is not arrested, charged, nor turned over for prosecution. Of the 16,231 cleared rapes in 238 departments, nearly half (47 percent) resulted in exceptional clearance when the victim refused to cooperate or when prosecution was declined. Incident-level variables had a greater effect on the likelihood of exceptional clearance than victim and offender variables. The department explained a significant amount of variation in the dependent variable, as 37 percent of the variance in type of clearance was between-department variation. Implications for future research on exceptional clearance and NIBRS are discussed. 50 references (Publisher abstract modified)