By Jim DeFede

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The recent arrests related to a pair of Miami-Dade shootings was welcome news to a community that has seen a wave of gun violence in recent weeks. A review of clearance rates, however, shows these arrests are outliers.

CBS4 News reviewed clearance rates for shootings over the past three years.

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In the county’s Northside District, 19 percent of the shootings resulted in an arrest in 2019. In 2020, it was 17 percent. And this year, the clearance rates for shootings are down to 15 percent.

In the county’s South District, 15 percent of the shootings were cleared in 2019, compared to 16 percent in 2020, and just 7 percent this year.

“Fifteen percent is just flat out unacceptable,” said Hilton Napoleon, an attorney who works with the nonprofit organization, Parents of Murdered Kids. “Seven percent is flat out unacceptable. We cannot have a situation where police officers are out writing tickets or arresting people for marijuana or arresting people for fraud crimes or wherever the case is. And you have a 15 percent clearance rate on the most serious crime in our country.”

The clearance rate for homicides is better, but even those numbers can be deceiving. In 2020, the clearance rate was 39 percent. So far in 2021, it is 43 percent.

But those numbers include easy to solve domestic violence, murder-suicide cases, officials say the actual clearance rate for homicide cases like we’ve seen in recent weeks, is probably in the single digits or low teens.

“The failure to solve these cases only adds to the problem,” Napoleon said.

“When these homicides and shootings are not closed, whether it’s right or wrong, you have parents, you have brothers, you have uncles, you have sisters who, when they know that nothing is happening to the individuals that are doing this, they want to take it upon themselves,” he said. “I challenge anyone to come into any of our meetings and listen to the horror stories that these mothers and these fathers go through, and they feel helpless because nobody’s doing anything about it.”

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Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez agrees the numbers should be higher but says his officers are doing what they can with the information they are given.

“Those clearance rates are not indicative of our officers not working,” Ramirez told CBS Miami. “They’re indicative of the frustrations and the challenges that our officers go through.”

The main problem, he said, is a lack of witnesses willing to testify.

“A lot of times when we come across these victims, they don’t want to tell you what happened because they’re in fear, or if it’s in in the criminal realm, if it’s a bad guy and bad guy, that person is thinking he’s going to retaliate to that,” Ramirez said. “What I’m trying to say here, law enforcement can only do so much.”

Napoleon said it is easy to tell people to just come forward, but the reality is very different.

“Listen, I have a mother whose 16-year-old son survived [a shooting],” Napoleon said. “He knows who shot him. But you know what the problem is. The person who shot him lives right across the street. She tried to move, to get funding to move because the kid has three additional siblings who also live there. So now you’re asking him, am I going to put my three siblings and my mother in harm’s way when the person who shot me lives right across the street in the same apartment complex that I live in.”

Ramirez sympathizes.

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“A lot of our victims don’t want to come forward,” he said. “Nobody wants to say nothing. And it’s and I understand and I’m not criticizing them, I get it. They are in fear, they’re in a world of violence. And I understand that. But we’re at a point now today that if you don’t start coming forward, it could be you next, it could be your loved one next. And we’ll have this merry-go-round this cycle of violence that has to stop.”

Jim DeFede