How often do the police NOT catch somebody?

I’m always hearing about police officers catching criminals. But, how often to people just get away scott-clean with crimes? Any idea (figure wise) on how many unsolved crimes there are?

Well, there’s a decided lack of stastistics on how many crimes are never caught/reported.

But based on personal experience, my guess would be: all the time?

The closest indices will be the clearance rates. In the US, the FBI computes these numbers.

There’s also the National Crime Victimization Survey , which as of 2 years ago, was considered more accurate than the UCR. It includes all committed crimes, not just those that actually resulted in an arrest. However, it is a voluntary survey and has all the negatives involved with that.

The UCR base is all reported offenses, not just ones resulting in an arrest.

if I am reading these right, quite alot of crimes go unsolved/unpunished

We trust this question is purely academic, yes?

The bigger the crime, it seems, the lower the odds of you getting away with it.
That being said, at work I was looking at a list of bank robbers.
One of the guys on the FBI most wanted list basically died of old age while they were still looking for him, over a decade after his first job.

Oh yeah. Crime shows like to make it look like 99% of ciminals get locked up, but the reality is something else entirely.

Short contribution: Sometimes the cops won’t even look for the bad guys, so a whole lot of people get away with things.

I can state from experience that the police won’t even investigate some crimes. A few months ago someone broke into my parents cars. The doors weren’t all locked*, and someone went through both. They ripped out the center cupholder consol thing from one of them and threw it in our neighbors’ bushes, threw the contents of the glove boxes around the car and driveway, and made off with about fifteen bucks (mostly in quarters). When the cops came they looked at the damage and said that they’d make a note of it in case there were more ‘incidents’. They wouldn’t do anything to investigate it or anything like that, though.

*Yes, I know, and we all learned a valuable lesson. In our defense, this was the first real ‘crime’ in our neighborhood in over twenty years, and the cars are a '98 Chevy Lumina and a '00 Ford Taurus, both nearing the end of their lives. Nothing about the cars (or the house, or property) gives the message of there being anything valuable.

How much investigation is warranted over the loss of $15 in change?

I don’t mean to minimize the outrage you (or others) feel at being the victim of a crime like this. But this was a non-violent crime with very minimal property loss. You have to weigh the limited police resources against the seriousness of your incident and the seriousness of other crimes in your town at the same time.

I used to have a Chevy Celebrity. I lived halfway between a nice park and a bad neighborhood. The Celebrity apparently carries the distinction of being really easy to hotwire. The kids would walk down to the park for the day, on their way back up, they’d get tired and need a ride. They’d break open my steering shaft, hotwire my car, and drop it off - always in the same four block radius. It happened three times in two years. Police never did anything but file a report.

The only crimes I’ve ever been involved with or called the cops on have not led to an arrest - I mean, sure, they weren’t all that excited about my stolen Christmas yard decoration (although the very nice officer did knock on some doors), but when I walked into an armed robbery at Blockbuster those guys got away scot free too with a couple grand in cash, and the cops were there fast with dogs and all. I mean, the plural of anecdote is not data, but I’ve never seen the cops catch anybody.

I can tell you from personal experience that unless something VERY valuable was stolen, burglaries go virtually uninvestigated. We were hit twice in two weeks, and the cop said he’d set up a sting in the house, and they wouldn’t give him funding for it. You will probably NEVER see your stuff again if you are burgled.

We went around local hock shops looking for our stuff. We thought we found one of the knives that was stolen (a huge honkin’ Rambo knife) and the cops wouldn’t even investigate THAT! I mean, it would have had our prints on it most likely, proving that it was ours…but nooooooooooo…fucked and fucked.

A friend of mine used a paper check at a local store in Houston. Over the next several months checks were cashed on their account to the tune of $25000. None of the checks were theirs and the bank didn’t deduct them from their account. The reason was the checks, except for the amount and who they were made out to, were identical. They got so mad they inquired at one store where a bad check was passed and got the security video showing the person from the first store passing the check. Turns out she had scanned the check and was photoshopping it. Every time she needed cash she would reprint the check with a new pay to name. I suspect the bank wasn’t honoring the checks and the stores were eating the losses. The friend had reported the bad checks to the police multiple times. Even with the video proving who was involved, the police wouldn’t investigate. They get 200-300 such calls a day and wouldn’t be able to do anything else.

It wasn’t a safety related crime (no guns or violence), and not a quality of life crime, so the police didn’t bother. Sigh.

Yeah, strictly academic. I’m just under the impression that all these crime shows are propoganda from the government in hopes of keeping people in line. Basically, if people feel they will get caught, and these type of shows indicate they will get caught immediately, they won’t commit crimes. But thats just me…

If you consider crimes in general including misdemeanors most crimes are not reported. Reckless driving, off-label prescription medication use, drug use, rape, copyright infringement, assault, battery, whatever.

I was just discussing this with a female friend of mine and her sexual history in early teens came up in the legal context, and we’ve concluded that there are technically several men out there who “got away” with California Penal Code 261.5 felonies (sex with a minor with 3+ years of age difference) and several misdemeanors (sex with a minor with <3 years of age difference) that could’ve all been prosecuted had it been brought to the attention of the law. Did she feel victimized? Hell no. Are these technically unreported crimes? Yes.

If I had to guess I’d say at least 80% of adults in the united states got away with at least one misdemeanor and I think that’s a very low estimate. If I just consider all the professionals I know disregarding my seedier friends, most of them have gotten away with a few felonies.

But those are technicalities and not actual crimes you say! Well, where’s the line?

Is assaulting (without battery, just confrontation assault) somebody always a real crime? How many times have you cornered somebody and made them feel uncomfortable in a verbal argument?

Is stealing something always a real crime? Look at the loss prevention statistics for American retailers, the amount of stuff stolen is staggering.

Is smuggling something intentionally or unintentionally always a real crime? How many people forget about nail clippers or scissors or whathave you in their carryon. How many people try to sneak stuff past airport security without any malice but with full intent?

Is illegal drug use always a crime? Obtaining pain medication under false pretenses is a crime. Misusing prescription medication is a crime. Taking certain prescription medications without a prescription is a crime. Do you not know any pill poppers with ‘chronic pain’? Have you never heard of anybody giving a friend a vicodin tab when actual pain was involved? How many people smoke pot in this country?
The point I’m getting at is that the OP’s question is silly unless you specifically restrict it to reported crimes that have been established as actual crimes but went unsolved. That we have statistics for, somewhere and I’m sure a doper in a better mood than myself will come along and find those for us. :slight_smile:

Another point to make is that you can restrict the subset of crimes with a victim that feels they were a victim of a specific crime. Now, I’m in my 20s and I can name a dozen unsolved (and sometimes unreported) crimes where I was a “victim” right off the top of my head: assault and battery, assault with a deadly weapon, theft, burglary, criminal harassment, etc. If it’s representative then there’s billions of unsolved crimes out there for the past century alone, if it’s not I guess I just lead a very exciting life :cool:

I had a conversation with an insurance adjuster locally who basically said that the cops here won’t investigate a fraudulent auto insurance claim unless someone is injured or killed in the process.

Oh to add an anecdote to my long rant:

There was a chain of car burglaries in my area. I was at the gym at night and when I came out mine and a few other cars had windows smashed. My brand new stereo was stolen. My cell phone was stolen. My dash was wrecked. The cops came (it was around 4AM in a relatively quiet shopping center in the nice part of town) looked around, questioned suspicious people hanging out around and then one of the officers approached me and said “Do you want me to dust your car for prints?”

I was flabbergasted, I didn’t think cops actually did that. I said “Umm, do you there’s a chance you’ll find somebody?” and the cop said “Most likely no, but I’m really bored.” So he dusted for prints, didn’t lift a single print (mine or anybody elses) from the entire dash, steering wheel and doors. I asked him if somebody wiped the prints and he laughed and said that it doesn’t work like it does on TV, most of the time there’s just no useable prints left.

Even big crimes don’t necessarily get solved. The sister of an ex-boyfriend was murdered 20 years ago now. Never solved. Pretty sure the boyfriend she’d just broken up with did it, but there has never been enough evidence to charge him.