Every year, at least 5,000 killers get away with murder. That’s because in a growing number of cities—including Jacksonville—most murders go unsolved. In 2015, Thomas Hargrove, an investigative journalist, founded the Murder Accountability Project (MAP), a nonprofit organization that has assembled the most complete public accounting of homicide available anywhere in the world. With these hundreds of thousands of murder records, MAP hopes to alert people to the failures of our governments to stop the cycle of violence. Because when murders aren’t cleared with the arrest of the killers, homicide rates quickly spiral out of control.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Even in a land as violent as America, the power of information is transformative. When people learn the truth, they will demand change: more cops, better trained cops, more resources of every kind, and a cooperative relationship between police and the communities they serve. This isn’t just a theoretical exercise. We need to understand the implications of Hargrove’s data for our community: based on MAP’s algorithm that detects serial killers within a specific geographic area, Jacksonville’s unsolved murder cluster is the largest in the state. What are we going to do about it?
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. Authorities in Youngstown, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana, opened new homicide investigations in 2010 as a result of Hargrove’s findings. The algorithm’s identification of 15 unsolved strangulations in Gary was corroborated in 2014 with the arrest of Darren Deon Vann, who confessed to killing women for decades.
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. Working with Professor Guido H. Stempel III of Ohio University, Hargrove co-founded the Scripps Survey Research Center and co-edited a two-volume encyclopedia, The 21st Century Voter: Who Votes, How They Vote and Why They Vote, published by ABC-CLIO in late 2015.