When it comes to violent crime in the United States, there’s a lot of good news. On the one hand, the number of serial killers has plunged from their heyday in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. On the other hand, as the number of serial murderers has declined, so has the clearance rate; in comparison to the 91 percent solve rate of the 1960s, by 2017, it had fallen to 61.6%. Thomas Hargrove, believes that serial killers are responsible for a significant number of unsolved murders. Watching police officers struggle to link serial crimes, and witnessing some of the built-in barriers that hindered them, former crime reporter and current crime data analyst developed an algorithm that helps police spot crime clusters that signal serial crimes. On today’s show, Tom Hargrove explores how he is using math to help law enforcement solve the problem of murder.
Thomas K. Hargrove is a retired Washington, D.C., -based investigative journalist and former White House correspondent. He founded the nonprofit Murder Accountability Project in 2015 to track unsolved homicides nationwide. While working as a national correspondent for the Scripps Howard News Service, Hargrove developed an algorithm that uses FBI homicide data to identify clusters of murders with an elevated probability of containing serial killings. Working with fellow board member Prof. David J. Icove of the University of Tennessee, Hargrove developed another algorithm that can review the National Fire Incident Reporting System to identify undetected or unreported arsons.