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Murder and non-negligent manslaughter are defined as the unlawful killing of another human being. Murder statistics tend to be the most reliable of all index crime statistics as most murders do not go unreported and the clearance rate for murder is the highest of all index crimes. Although murder consistently contributes the smallest numbers to overall violent crime, murder is often used as the primary subjective measure of violent crime.
During 2009, Pennsylvania reported 648 murders, a 7.2 percent decrease from 2008. Compared over time, the 2009 figure is 19.2 percent lower than in 1990, but 12.5 percent greater than in 2000.
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In 2009, there were 5.1 persons murdered for every 100,000 Pennsylvanians. This is the lowest murder rate reported since 2003. Overall the murder rate has declined since 1990.
Pennsylvania’s 2009 reported murder rate of 5.1 was greater than both the national rate of 5.0 and the Northeast regional rate of 3.8. In comparison with the Commonwealth’s bordering states only Maryland had a greater murder rate in 2009.
The Pennsylvania, national, and northeast regional rates have all experienced declines since the early 1990’s. Since 2000, the national and northeast rates have stayed relatively stable while Pennsylvania has increased slightly.
In most counties, murder is an infrequent offense. In 2009, there were seventeen counties that reported no murder offenses. Additionally, another seventeen counties reported less than 2.0 murders per 100,000 persons. Of those counties reporting murders in 2009, rates ranged from 0.5 in Butler County to 19.5 in Philadelphia County.There were ten counties with rates equal to or higher than the statewide rate of 5.1.
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The number of arrests for murder in Pennsylvania followed the same trend as the number of reported murders. Arrests for murder numbered 513 during 2009 in Pennsylvania. This is 10.6 percent less than in 2008, 3.6 percent more than in 2000, and 35.1 percent less than in 1990.
The number of arrests for murder results in a rate of 4.1 arrests for every 100,000 Pennsylvanians. This is 11.7 percent lower than in 2008. The 2009 rate is the same as the rate in 2000 and 38.0 percent lower than in 1990.
Pennsylvania’s arrest rate for murder was the same as the national rate of 4.1 and higher than the northeast regional rate of 2.8 for 2009. In comparison to its bordering states, Maryland and West Virginia had greater arrest rates than Pennsylvania.
The arrest rate for Pennsylvania, the nation and the northeast region saw a decrease from 2008 to 2009.
Twenty-six counties reported no murder arrests during 2009. Additionally, 6 counties had arrest rates of less than 1.0 per 100,000 persons. The greatest arrest rate occurred in Philadelphia County with 15.1 arrests for murder per 100,000 persons, followed by Warren County at 12.3. Only 10 counties had a rate greater than the statewide rate of 4.1.
The offense of murder has one of the highest clearance rates in Pennsylvania. For 2009, 31.1 percent of index offenses, 56.9 percent of violent crimes and 26.9 percent of property crimes were cleared in Pennsylvania. In comparison, 73.6 percent of murders were cleared.
Murders are often committed in conjunction with another felony or an argument. During 2009, 36.4 percent of the victims were murdered within circumstances associated with other felonies. The most common felony circumstances were robberies and drug abuse violations. Another 39.8 percent of victims were murdered as a result of various types of arguments.
Offenders of murder also tend to be both males and minorities. In 2009, 53.5 percent of offenders were minority males and 38.1 percent were white males. Females only accounted for 8.4 percent of all offenders. Approximately a quarter of all offenders were age 20 to 24, with 41.8 percent of offenders being age 30 or older.
Victims of murder are most often male minorities, accounting for 50.0 percent of all murder victims in 2009. In addition, 27.0 percent were white males. Only 13.6 percent of victims were white females and 9.4 percent were minority females. Just over half of the victims were age 30 or older.
The percentage of murders committed by firearms has risen significantly since the early 1990’s. In 1990, 54.7 percent of victims were murdered by use of firearms, compared to 71.8 percent in 2009.
Firearms are the most commonly used weapon to commit murder. During 2009, 71.8 percent of murders were the result of the use of firearms, and more specifically, 57.3 percent of murders were attributed to handguns.
In 2009, victims murdered by strangers only accounted for 6.0 percent of all murder victims, while 10.2 percent were killed by family members. In addition another 39.0 percent were murdered by persons known to them, but who were not family members, such as friends and neighbors. Therefore, 49.2 percent of murders were committed by someone known by the murder victim. Data indicates that for a large percentage (44.8%) the offender’s relationship to the victim has not been determined.
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