More murders left unsolved nationally, but Dallas-Fort Worth may be getting less credit than it deserves

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Five years after her son’s murder, Bridgett Williams is still trying to figure out what happened.

“I can talk about him now without crying, which is why I’m proud of myself,” she told CBS 11.

Grady Dunn was on his way home in January 2017 when another driver hit him from behind, pulled out a gun and tried to rob him. Grady accelerated and was shot. Dallas police found a video of the other car but never identified the shooter.

“No one has ever been brought to justice. I don’t know if people look at it anymore. It feels like things are just sealed and put away somewhere. That’s how I feel. I just feel like it’s just been forgotten,” she said.

Murder is the crime most likely to be solved in the US, according to the FBI, but nationally, the success rate has been declining for years.

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By the mid-1960s, more than 90 percent of murders were solved, usually resulting in an arrest. By 2020, as the homicide rate rose, the national cleanup rate fell to about 50 percent for the first time.

Research by the CBS News Innovation Lab found Texas law enforcement typically exceed 70% of homicide cases up to 2016, when those rates began to drop. In 2020, the year for which the most recent state data is available, it was 53%.

It turned out to be more difficult to find out how our local police are doing.

The Fort Worth Police Department reports that they have cleaned up 72% of homicides by 2020, but FBI data shows they have cleaned up slightly less – 55%. Similarly, the Dallas Police Department reports that they have cleared up 78% of homicides in 2020, while FBI data shows they have done half that number – 39%.

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The Fort Worth Police Department reports that they have cleaned up 72% of homicides by 2020, but FBI records show they are cleaning up slightly less – 55%. 39%.

When asked, both departments claimed their internal data was correct, but CBS 11 urged the Dallas Police Department to explain the significant discrepancy in the data for their department. The department’s intelligence department investigated and discovered errors in the reporting process. It is now working to correct its record in state and national databases to reflect the much higher success rate.

In an email, Lieutenant Stephen Bishopp, who oversees data management, wrote CBS 11: “[We] are determined to properly report violations/arrests by DPD. Without raising the issues with you, we would never have known or even looked at the differences, let alone why they occurred.”

A homicide rate is an important measure of evaluating the effectiveness of a police station.

In a recent interview with former Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall, CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod asked, “Does everyone know that we’re basically going to be as good as our homicide clearing rate in a department?”

“Most chefs understand that,” she replied.

The murder of her own father, while working as a police officer in Detroit, was never solved.

“That’s probably why I have scars today and that’s why I understand what it means to others, because I know what it means to me,” Hall said.

UT Dallas professor Tim Bray oversaw data collection as a former associate bureau chief for the Illinois State Police, and sees the approval rate as a valuable resource.

“There’s a desire to know how Dallas stacks up against our peer cities? What don’t we do that these other cities are? Or, what can they learn from us?” he said.

Many factors, he said, can influence a department’s success.

“I want to understand if the types of crimes have changed, if the staffing numbers have changed, if the training of my detectives has decreased over time,” he said.

Chief Hall told CBS News it’s hard to keep homicides well staffed with departments, like Dallas, losing officers faster than they can hire them.

“I came in with 600 fewer officers than my predecessor. Same challenges,” she said.

In 2017, when she started, there were 28 detectives. At one point, a year later, there were only 16. One of the many cases that had to be reassigned was that of Grady Dunn.

“It’s just not fair because all families have a right to find out what happened,” his mother said.

Bridgett didn’t give up one day to get answers for herself. She always carries her son with her and wears a necklace with his photo.

“I’m keeping Brady alive. I’ll keep his case in mind,” she said.

On every birthday, every anniversary, she calls the police to check in, to remind them that their job isn’t done.

“I’d like to know there’s no murderer out there,” she said. “That would close some of the hole that’s in my heart right now.”

The current leadership of both the Dallas and Fort Worth Police Department has declined a request for an interview regarding their homicide clearance rates. So the CBS News Innovation Lab dug into the data looking for answers and found that a murder is much more likely to be solved if the victim is white.

The reasons behind that are complicated. Tune in Thursday night at 10pm for more information.

Full coverage of ‘Crime Without Punishment’ from our CBS stations nationwide and CBS News is available here

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