'I don't feel like there is justice': Less than half of violent crimes lead to an arrest

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BySamantha Kummerer WTVD logo
Thursday, December 2, 2021
Less than half of violent crimes lead to an arrest
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While many believe shootings and other violent crimes lead to arrests and eventually convictions, the reality is that many offenders never even end up in handcuffs.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A mother's worst fears transformed into reality one July evening.

"The minute I see them it sounded like firecrackers at first," Delmonica Cuthbertson said. "Instantly, I was told to run. So, all I'm doing is running and it is sounded like it was World War III out there. It was just horrible. And I just kept praying, 'God, please let it stop.'"

One of the worst moments of Cuthbertson's life is the same one that continues to haunt her.

She went to visit her family in Durham. Her twin sons were coming back from a trip to the store when she first heard and then watched as a drive-by shooter sent bullets across the street.

When the shots stopped, a new reality took hold.

"When I finally looked down that's when I saw the blood coming out of his leg. So I'm screaming that my son got shot," Cuthbertson remembered.

Her 19-year old son Jayvion fell to the ground; bleeding, but it wasn't just his leg that was hit. For two months, Jayvion lay in the hospital undergoing 13 surgeries. He was in a coma and placed on a ventilator. Cuthbertson said Jayvion was shot multiple times and sustained damage to his kidney, lungs and stomach--damage that months later Jayvion is still recovering from.

It's been five months since the shooting and the case is listed as inactive with no arrests made.

Cuthbertson said the Durham Police Department stopped investigating the case two months after the shooting and didn't tell her. The lack of arrest, she said, gnaws at her.

"I still to this day in my heart, it feels like the shooter is still out there. And he's done got away. He's done got away. And now there's going to be more victims because if you think about it if you could get away with something why not keep trying?" Cuthbertson said.

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The lack of justice leaves her feeling helpless.

The police report lists Jayvion's case as inactive since September 7. The Durham Police Department said inactive cases mean all investigative leads have been exhausted.

"The case has not been closed, but will not be investigated any further unless additional information becomes available," a spokesperson for the department wrote to the I-Team.

Jayvion's case isn't an exception. While many believe shootings and other violent crimes lead to arrests and eventually convictions, the reality is that many offenders never even end up in handcuffs.

The Durham Police Department labeled Jayvion's shooting as an aggravated assault. Only around one of every four aggravated assaults in Durham resulted in an arrest in 2020, according to the department's 2021 2nd Quarter Crime Report. For homicide cases, the department reported making an arrest for every three cases (32%).

Across other jurisdictions, the numbers are slightly better, but rarely exceed clearance rates above 50%.

Around 65% of murders were cleared by Raleigh Police in 2020. Fewer than half, 41% of aggravated assaults in 2020 were cleared by Raleigh police.

The Fayetteville Police Department reported 58% of homicides were cleared in 2020, but less than a third (31.4%) of aggravated assaults were solved.

Clearance rates have long been a measure of how successfully and effectively police are at doing their job.

"I think that the police are failing in the sense that we can't tolerate a situation where most shootings result in zero legal consequences. I think that that is going to simply cluster greater violence in the future," explained Dr. Phillip Cook.

Cook, a professor of public policy at Duke University, has studied clearance rates across the nation for years.

"I got involved in it partly because the statistics are alarming," Cook said.

Nationally, 45% of violent crimes lead to an arrest, according to 2019 data from the FBI. Agencies report the highest rate of arrests for homicide cases (61.4%), followed by aggravated assault charges, with 52% cleared by an arrest in 2019.

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In 2020, Durham police reported lower clearance rates than national averages for almost every violent crime except rape.

Arrests are just one component in the justice system. If there are low arrest rates, the percent of individuals actually convicted is even lower.

Cook said certain types of crimes are harder to investigate than others, specifically drive-by shootings, like Jayvion's incident.

"Cities that have a difficult mix of cases, a lot of gang-related drive-by shootings and cases like that are going to have a lower clearance rate. Just because it is so challenging to get witnesses, to find witnesses and to find witnesses that are willing to step forward," Cook said.

Law enforcement officials said the more physical evidence and witnesses the better for investigations. Also, how closely the suspect and victim are can impact officers' ability to solve the case.

To increase the rate of arrests, Cook said communities need to invest in police and make gun violence a priority. Developing better relationships with the community is another tactic he suggests to get more people willing to cooperate with police investigations.

Cook also said agencies need to make non-fatal shootings just as big of a priority as fatal shootings.

"The fact that the guys that are doing the shootings often are repeat offenders. And so if we can interrupt their careers that makes a big difference," Cook said.

He believes if Durham police increase the priority of non-fatal shootings and solve even just half of those cases, the area would see a dramatic decrease in violence.

Nationally and across Fayetteville, Raleigh and Durham, departments reported higher clearance rates in homicide cases. The Fayetteville Police Department made almost double the percent of arrests in homicide cases than in aggravated assault cases in 2020.

Faster patrol response times, an increase in cameras and interagency communications are other factors law enforcement officials said will drive these rates up.

Ultimately, improving the percentage of arrests tied to each crime will improve the future rate of crime threatening communities in the future.

"I think what we do in response to today's crimes, is going to make a big difference about how much crime we have in the future," Cook said. "And part of it is simply deterrence. Showing that there are consequences to shooting someone to jumping in a car and shooting out the window at bystanders."

As communities grapple to increase clearance rates, victims continue to endure and suffer.

Cuthbertson said Jayvion is expected to fully recover in a year but the damage from the shooter will persist. As Jayvion and the family continue to get back to normal, they are accepting donations through GoFundMe.

"I'm thankful to be able to hold a picture and I can still hold my son. There are mothers and fathers out here that all they have is their pictures, and they don't have a physical body. You know, that is the blessing for me with that, but it's still like we still just don't have justice," Cuthbertson said.