Axne, Demings Introduce Legislation to Assist Local Law Enforcement in Meeting Challenge of Increased Homicide, Shooting Rates

October 28, 2021
Press Release
In 2020, Iowa saw an 80% increase in homicides, 23% increase in shootings

Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) joined Rep. Val Demings (FL-10) to introduce legislation aimed at helping local law enforcement agencies solve homicides and other violent crimes while supporting victims and their families.

The Violent Incident Clearance and Technological Investigative Methods (VICTIM) Act would establish a Department of Justice (DOJ) grant program to enable state and local law enforcement agencies to hire, train, and retain detectives and victim services personnel in response to rising homicide rates and declining clearances rates of homicides across the U.S.

“Last year, we saw an increase in homicide and gun-related crime all across the U.S. – including in Iowa. In fact, Iowa saw an 80% jump in homicides in 2020 – a statistic that should frankly stop any Iowan in their tracks,” said Rep. Axne. I know our police departments are working around the clock to solve these crimes, and it’s critical that they have the resources they need to keep our communities safe and support the families affected. Our legislation, the VICTIM Act, would directly help our law enforcement improve public safety while also helping victims and their families.”

“Real life isn’t like CSI: Miami,” said Rep. Demings, a former 27-year police officer and Chief of the Orlando Police Department. “I saw as a law enforcement officer, detective, and chief of police that gun crimes are oftentimes difficult to investigate and solve. Simply put, many agencies lack the resources they need to bring justice to these cases and closure for families. Half of gun murders in the United States go unsolved, and victims are often left with no justice and little support. This legislation would inject critical new funding into America’s law enforcement agencies to hire and train detectives and specialists specifically committed to investigate unsolved crimes, comfort victims, and bring the guilty to justice.

“I vividly recall as a law enforcement officer standing over the bodies of young Floridians who had been victims of gun crimes, knowing that their families would soon receive devastating news,” Rep. Demings continued. “Today, the murder rate is rising, and more and more cases go unsolved. Unsolved gun crimes are unacceptable for the victims and their families, and leaving violent criminals on the streets is unacceptable for the communities we are trying to protect. We can do better, and this legislation will give our law enforcement agencies the resources they need to track down violent criminals and keep Floridians safe.”

The VICTIM Act would establish a grant program at the DOJ to provide resources to state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies to assist them in improving their clearance rates for homicides and non-fatal shootings. Specifically, the grants provided by the VICTIM Act would be used to:

  • Hire and retain detectives to investigate homicide and non-fatal shootings
  • Acquire resources for processing evidence, including the hiring of additional personnel
  • Hire personnel trained to analyze criminal intelligence and crime trends
  • Train detectives and evidence processing personnel in effective procedures and techniques
  • Ensure victim services are sufficiently staffed, funded, and trained

Recipients of the grants would be required to report to the DOJ information regarding how the money was spent and how it affected clearance rates for homicides and non-fatal shootings. The National Institute of Justice will periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the policies and procedures implemented by the grantees to improve clearance rates and report to Congress on its conclusions.

Background:

In 2020, the United States saw the biggest rise in murder since the start of national record-keeping in 1960. 21,570 people were murdered in the United States in 2020—the most since 1995—a 29.4% increase over 2019.

Iowa saw a similar spike in 2020 with 85 homicides, an 80% increase over 2019. Last year also marked the deadliest year for Iowans killed by a gunshot wound at 353, a 23% increase over 2019 – which was the previous record high.

According to federal data, Iowa’s homicide rate in 2020 is more than triple what the state average from 1999 to 2001.

The FBI estimates that 77% of all murders in the United States in 2020 were via firearms. That is the highest share on record and the most of any year on record except 1993. At the same time that the murder rate rose, the clearance rate for murders fell significantly, from 61.4% in 2019, to 54.4% in 2020. In cities with a population above 250,000, the rate was even more dramatic, falling from 57.6% in 2019 to 47.3% in 2020.

Support:

The bill was introduced today with Reps. Dwight Evans (PA-03), Tom O'Halleran (AZ-01), Robin Kelly (IL-02), and Lucy McBath (GA-06).

“This bill provides crucial support for law enforcement efforts to provide justice for victims and solve unclosed cases. Rep. Demings’ legislation is supported by science and best practice,” said Jim Burch, President of the National Police Foundation. “The National Police Foundation applauds Congresswoman Demings’ leadership and support for evidence-based best practices that will keep the public safe and reduce crime.”

“It is our opinion that this legislation will help increase the clearance rates of cases throughout the nation,” said Frederick L. Thomas, National President of The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

“Our nation’s cities and communities are experiencing a historic rise in violent crime. Murders and non-fatal shootings are going unresolved at higher rates as law enforcement agencies do not have the officers and resources to dedicate to improving clearance rates for these horrendous crimes,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director of the National Association of Police Organizations. “The VICTIM Act will help address this issue by supplying much needed grant funding to agencies to fill, replenish, and train their detective and homicide personnel. Through this legislation, law enforcement will be able to focus on solving these violent crimes that have such a detrimental impact on our communities and improve the services that they render to victims.”