Chicago’s top cop acknowledged Friday he had mistakenly claimed at two separate public forums that police had solved the vast majority of murders in January — despite the department’s historically abysmal clearance rate.
Supt. Larry Snelling had told West Side residents at a public safety forum on Jan. 30 detectives had “cleared” 76% of murders last month.
“Of the homicides that we’ve had this year, which is 25, 19 of those have been cleared already,” Snelling said.
A day later, on Jan. 31, Snelling doubled down during an event hosted by the Economic Club of Chicago where he claimed 20 of the 26 murders tallied in the past 30 days had been cleared. Even after he was questioned about the number, he told members of the influential group that all those cleared cases led to arrests and charges.
But on Friday, he acknowledged he was wrong. The department released numbers showing only three of the homicides committed this year had been cleared.
“This was my miscommunication, and I own it,” Snelling said in a statement. “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.”
Another 16 of cases have been cleared this year, but they involved murders committed in previous years.
Officials did not specify whether the cases cleared this year actually led to an arrest and criminal charges. Under departmental policy, detectives can also clear a case “exceptionally,” when prosecutors refuse to bring charges against a suspect identified by police, a suspect is dead or police believe they know who did it but don’t make an arrest.
A police spokesperson said Snelling’s error “has since been rectified and corrected internally.”
Historically, Chicago police have made arrests in a low number of cases. In 2021, the department closed 400 of 797 murders that year, but data showed police made an arrest only in about half of those closed cases.