2 Investigators: Are Murder Statistics Being Watered Down?

Send Your Tips To Pam Zekman

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago police claim the city’s murder rate went down more than 5 percent last year.

But did it really?

The 2 Investigators have reported for years about how the police department has killed crime on paper by misclassifying reports of robberies, rapes and murders.

It seemed like a deadly year in Chicago in 2010. But in the end, police bragged that murders were down from 460 in 2009 to 436 in 2010. Exiting Police Supt. Jody  Weis said it was the lowest homicide rate in 45 years.

But there’s unfinished business: dozens of so-called “uncleared death investigations,” which are yet to be classified as non-criminal cases or homicides.

Take the case of Jay Polhill. The body of the 20-year-old Columbia College student was found in the Little Calumet River naked from the waist down, according to police.

“He didn’t have his camera. He didn’t have his laptop. He didn’t have his wallet,” said Polhill’s friend, Taylor Streiff. “I believe he was murdered.”

Polhill’s autopsy report describes “extensive skull fractures” on both sides of his head and a broken neck bone. But the medical examiner’s office said the cause and manner of death was “undetermined.”

Unsatisfied, Polhill’s parents spent $15,000 on a private detective who they say helped them get the police and medical examiner to take another look. 

Polhill’s parents showed the autopsy report to a pathologist in another state. He told Zekman the documented head injuries don’t support an accident or suicide theory.

In fact, he said, “It really shouts out as an  assault.” 

Last October, the Polhills then met with the pathologist assigned to their son’s case in Cook County. A month later, after consulting with other pathologists in the medical examiner’s office, she amended her findings.

The amended cause of death is now  “drowning due to multiple injuries due to assault,” a homicide.

But five months later, Chicago police still list Polhill’s case as a death investigation.

Thomas Byrne, chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department, says its cold case unit is now taking a fresh look at the case.

“It could turn into a homicide,” Byrne said.  

Asked if detectives feel pressured to help keep serious crime statistics down, Byrne replied, “Absolutely not.”

“There’s not a detective or a police officer out there that I know that would misrepresent a homicide as a death investigation,” he told Zekman.

Meanwhile, Polhill’s friends are afraid a killer may still be out there.

“If someone has the capacity to do that once, then they have the capacity to do that more than once,” Suzanne Pearman said.

Polhill’s parents anxiously await the outcome of the police investigation. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the 2 Investigators have asked for the case reports on dozens of other pending death investigations.

More from 2 Investigators
  • tom Sharp

    Of oourse the police are lying about the murder rate. Murder means a lot more paper work and “real” police work and those are the last things the police want to do.

  • Adam Chicago PI

    Great work Pam. I believe this to be true also. Keep working this issue and I have input on this topic.

  • IL Mom......

    This is horrible…..His Parents know it is a lie……

  • phillmarines

    It’s about time ,truth be known Chicago has a very different way than any major city of reporting crime statistics, murder rate is unreal in this city? and the lawmakers continue to keep honest citizen unarmed targets for thugs

    • Mr. Justice

      Agreed! We need Conceal Carry. Everyone knows the politicians from the Mayor down are nothing but liars and I would have no problem saying it to their face.

  • Patriot78

    Tbe statistics are also being watered down in another way. If a person is beaten, shot stabbed etc., and they don’t die until the following calendar year, ( a delayed fatal injury) those statistics are shuffled into either the year of the injury or the year of the death. It all depends on which is more convenient for the “bean counters” at CPD.

  • MM

    And they don’t just do this for murders. The rig the numbers for robberies etc ebb there’s multiple victims. If two people get robbed, it’s SUPPOSED to be filed as TWO robberies as there were two victims but instead, they file it as one since it happened during the same incident.

  • Taylor Streiff

    Hi I’m Taylor Streiff. And Jay was one of my best friends. So kindly keep your mouth shut.

  • Mom , Chicago Illinois

    My heart goes out to the friends and family of this young man. As a mother of a former Columbia College student , I cannot Imagine these kind of things being done to a person and it being called Undetermined Death. I think not having any of your personal belongings on you and being found in this condition would tell almost anyone that there was some fowl play. I just hope that the family is able to get some answers and some closure. How unfortunate that the family has to pay someone to take notice of this death and to actually get someone to work on this case.

    • dsfadsf

      the hardest thing is being a friend of Jay’s and still not knowing what happened to him. this is heartbreaking. i just want justice.

  • Ted

    Pam, you are a great investigator. You are one of the very few reporters who actually does really good investigative reporting. I have watched your reports for many years. I make a point of watching the channel 2 10 pm news especially to see your work. Thanks.

  • g-man

    Just look at the murder committed by Daley’s nephew—–The police will not even talk to the named offender -political pressure???— The states attorney office will not look into it ?????? But a cop slaps a person 2 times and felony approval—-what a joke

  • D

    Any city/one that hires Jody Weiss gets what it deserves, he is a punk like the rest of them, all he cares about is how he looks to the public, and in my eyes, he was a waste of time & $ for the city of Chicago.

  • Jo dean

    That actually would not surprise me at all dude.


  • Marvin the Mavin

    He said, She said, I said. Investigations of death, murder or by any means does not do anything but take the time of law enforcement, catches few. The blithering of a few does not enhance the quality of life in the City or anywhere else. I was in the Korean War where I think we stopped counting bodies at %6,000 and I did not hear any voices then.I the number of deaths are important, do something to stop them before the bodies are counted.

  • Kathy Bacon

    I know the family and am very happy that they are finally going to look at this properly. If they had done so at the time intead of put the family off, they could have already caught the killer. I pray for justice to be done, That killer is still out there and they will find you. Great for his mom & dad continuing to search for answers !!!!

  • Kathy Bacon

    I know his mom & dad. I am glad they didn’t give up on trying to find the truth. The CPD should pay them back for the $$$ they had to put out and hopefully now they will find the killer. Good job on the article, no one believed what the police were saying about what happened to Jay. I hope justice will be served and the family can have proper closure.

  • trent

    Let us all pray for those in death row.

  • Raymond Prudente

    Methods for collecting crimes data are law enforcement reports which only reflect reported crimes and victimization statistical surveys, which rely on individual honesty. The U.S. has two major data collection programs, the Uniform Crime Reports from the FBI, and the National Crime Victimization Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. However, the U.S. has no comprehensive infrastructure to monitor crime trends and report the information to related parties such as law enforcement.

    Many law enforcement officers have power of discretion, they have the ability to affect how much crime is recorded and they can only record crime that comes to their attention, and might not record a matter as a crime if the matter is considered minor. The statistic may also be biased because of routine actions and pragmatic decisions that law enforcement officers make in the field.

    But due to the lack of manpower, CPD investigators must turn their focus to fresh cases as they crop up, too much time has already passed without apprehension/conviction of suspects. The grief and emotional pain suffered by victim’s families and the frustration of not solving the case will haunt them forever. You want to see justice be done for the family so they can have some kind of closure, they want to know why something happened and not JUSTICE DELAYED JUSTICE DENIED!

  • Raymond Prudente

    In 2010, 113 Chicagoans have fallen victims to violence-a nearly 5 percent increase from the previous year. Parents are scared and frustrated, and kids face unrelenting danger when walking from school. It’s an unacceptable situation that demands immediate action. But our political leaders has no political will and CPD lack the manpower and resources to effectively fight crimes.

    Communities should focus on breaking the “Code of Silence” that exist in the streets, where neighbors are unwilling to bear witness against the perpetrators and criminals out of fear for their safety. The crime infested areas of Chicago (particularly the south side or the “War Zone”) should be temporarily secured by the National Guards not only to assist CPD but to restore peace and order. Psychologically, deployment of uniformed Guards will be successful that, CPD struggling with violent crimes and murder was a the only area where police unfortunately could not be effective.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live