top of page
  • snitzoid

Murders of Black Women Rose During the Pandemic. The Solving of their Cases Fell.

Whatever you may think of the BLM narrative, the national war on cops doesn't seem to be helping victims of crime. Sure, most cities do a lousy job of removing bad cops, but throwing the vast majority of cops (who are good) under the bus hurts everyone.

There are plenty of other factors at play, but when the police can't do their job or are quitting their jobs in droves creating shortages of manpower, the results aren't great.

Murders of Black Women Rose During the Pandemic. The Solving of their Cases Fell.

Victims’ families set out to find killers as authorities grapple with shift in clearance rates

By Zusha Elinson, and Dan Frosch, WSJ

Dec. 31, 2022 9:00 am ET

When homicides surged across America during the pandemic, murders of Black women and girls rose more dramatically than other groups. At the same time, the proportion of those killings solved by police fell faster than other demographics in nearly two dozen cities.

Some 2,077 Black women and girls were killed in 2021, a 51% increase over 2019 and the largest jump of any racial or gender group during that period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, the number of killings nationwide increased 34% during that time frame.

Meanwhile, the number of unsolved homicides of Black women and girls rose by 89% in 2020 and 2021 compared with 2018 and 2019, according to a survey of 21 U.S. cities by The Wall Street Journal. It was a far bigger increase than any other demographic group during this period, data provided by the cities show.

The numbers are confounding to law enforcement, criminologists and community groups, who said they have yet to gain a complete understanding of the disparities.

They pointed to several variables that might have contributed to the changes, including the overall rise in homicides of Black women and girls, staffing shortages in police departments and deepening distrust of police in some Black communities following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

One factor, according to some in law enforcement: a shift in the types of homicide cases in which Black women and girls were victims. Police have typically solved more homicides of women than men. Killings of women often involve husbands, boyfriends or ex-partners, who are quickly identified. Men are more often killed in gang- and drug-related shootings or fights with strangers, cases that can be tougher to crack.

Amid a quarter-century high in gun violence during the pandemic, more Black women and girls were caught in the crossfire of drive-by shootings and other attacks where they weren’t always the intended targets, police said. These cases are often more difficult to solve.

Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher, who oversees the Los Angeles Police Department’s detectives, said that in general there have been too many killings and not enough detectives to keep pace. The 752 homicides in Los Angeles in 2020-2021 marked a 46% increase over 2018-2019.

Many police officers around the U.S. have retired or exited the profession over the past two years, leaving departments short-handed. It takes years for detectives to gain the expertise of those who left, veteran homicide detectives said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which reports annual crime data nationwide, doesn’t fully track clearance rates by race and gender. The Journal queried more than 30 cities across the U.S., including the nation’s 10 largest. Most also said they don’t track such data. Twenty-one cities agreed to share both the number of homicides and the number of those cases cleared since 2018, along with the race and gender of the victims.

In these cities, the share of homicide cases for Black women and girls cleared by police—either by arrest, charges filed or identification of a suspect beyond the reach of authorities—fell to 59% in 2020 and 2021 from 67% in 2018 and 2019. Clearance rates for white women and girls fell from 78% to 73% over the same time period.

Clearance rates for men were lower to begin with, but saw smaller drops in that period, or none at all, remaining at 58% for white men and boys and dropping from 45% to 41% for Black men and boys, who had the lowest clearance rate of all. The overall homicide clearance rates in those 21 cities during that period fell to 49% from 51%.

Some states and cities have started examining differences in homicides and clearance rates for cases involving Black women and girls. The Los Angeles City Council in May ordered the city’s civil rights department to conduct an analysis of the issue.

“It’s like there has been this huge invisibility, “ said Coffy Davis, who works with police and local community groups on the issue in Little Rock, Ark.

Unsolved murders

A disparate group of Black women around the U.S. have started tracking killings and launching websites devoted to the unsolved murders. Some grieving families, frustrated by stalled investigations, have set out to try to solve the murders themselves, walking the blocks where their mothers, daughters or sisters died.

LaTonia Williams, 50 years old, who ran a child-care center out of her home, was shot multiple times while sitting in her car in Chicago on the afternoon of Feb. 22, 2020. For days afterward, her sister and mother blanketed the South Shore neighborhood with posters showing her photo. They offered a $15,000 reward.

LaTonia Williams’s funeral program.

“No one would talk with us. They wouldn’t even open the door for us. It was so heartbreaking,” said Jamila Hughes, Ms. Williams’ sister. After a friend warned it was dangerous for them to be out asking questions, the women stopped.

They now take turns each week calling the homicide detective handling the case.

Chicago police declined to comment, citing the continuing investigation. The department said it was trying to bolster its unit of approximately 180 homicide detectives so that each officer has fewer cases to solve.

Some high profile killings of Black women and girls have gone unsolved. LaNiyah Murphy, a 20-year-old anti-violence activist, was fatally shot in the right temple last January while talking on her phone in a parked car on a South Side Chicago street.

Ms. Murphy, a 5-foot-3 woman with a booming voice and broad smile, helped lead a youth-mentoring group and had started her work after recovering from a gunshot wound to the head when she was 16.

Her killing stunned many in the city, including fellow organizers who demanded police move quickly to find the culprit.

“The police don’t have adequate resources and protection for people who want to speak out,” said Lamar Johnson, who supervised Ms. Murphy’s anti-violence group. “There are also severe repercussions in predominantly Black neighborhoods that can happen if you do speak out.”

As with many unsolved homicides in Chicago, Mr. Johnson said he believes some people know who killed Ms. Murphy but won’t come forward.

Chicago police declined to comment on the case, which is still under investigation.

In Milwaukee in 2019, police cleared 17 of 20 homicides of Black women and girls, data show. In 2021, the department cleared 14 out of 28 cases. Police there said it had become increasingly difficult to get witnesses to come forward.

“They fear for their own safety. They don’t want to be put on a witness sheet. They don’t want to have to be called to court,” said Capt. Timothy Gauerke, head of the Milwaukee Police Department’s homicide unit.

Some families of murdered Black women and girls say another factor in clearance disparities is that their killings draw less attention.

In Los Angeles, an outcry from Black victims’ families erupted last January, after officials announced a $50,000 reward for help solving the fatal stabbing of a 24-year-old white UCLA graduate student. Private donations raised the reward to $250,000. A suspect was quickly apprehended with the help of surveillance footage.

Families of two murdered Black women in Los Angeles demanded rewards in their cases. The body of 16-year-old Tioni Theus was found on the side of a freeway in January with a gunshot wound in her neck. The body of Mikeona Johnson, a 23-year-old, had been found in her car in September, 2020.

Falling rates

In Cleveland, police solved 10 out of 15 homicides of Black women and girls in 2019. In 2020, they solved only half, 9 out of 18.

“During the course of the global coronavirus pandemic, solve rates of homicides decreased in Cleveland and around the country for a variety of reasons, including closed or limited access to court facilities and prosecutors,” Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia, a spokeswoman for the Cleveland police department, said in a written statement.

Among the unsolved murders from 2020 was that of Britney Hardwick, a 22-year-old nail stylist and mother of a three year-old girl named Justice. She was found in the early morning of Dec. 12, 2020, fatally shot in the neck in her black Ford Focus that was parked in her boyfriend’s parents’ driveway.

Sandra Dawkins, Ms. Hardwick’s mother, was certain Cleveland’s homicide detectives would solve the case quickly. Her daughter was with acquaintances before driving to pick up her boyfriend at a party, a friend said. Detectives interviewed Ms. Hardwick’s boyfriend and others, but made no arrests.

Ms. Dawkins, 62, scoured the Cleveland neighborhood where her daughter was murdered, talking to people who live or own businesses there. She hung posters with a picture of her daughter that read “WHO KILLED ME?!!!” and a phone number for tips.

Police said a person of interest has been identified in the case, but there isn’t enough evidence to make an arrest.


Ms. Dawkins in her daughter's car at an impound lot in Cleveland.

Wondering if she missed anything, Ms. Dawkins recently went to the police impound lot. Among the rows of vehicles with shattered windows and rusting bullet holes, she found her daughter’s car

She opened the passenger door and sat inside, rubbing the gray upholstery on the driver’s seat still stained with her daughter’s blood.

“How can you just go on in life knowing someone killed your child, and you don’t know who did it?” Ms. Dawkins said. “I got to know.”

—Anthony DeBarros contributed to this article.

Write to Zusha Elinson at and Dan Frosch at

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page