New Jersey was home to 308 murders in 2017.

At least 50 percent have not yet been solved.

According to Uniform Crime Report data compiled by the State Police, 150 murders were "cleared" in 2017, but those clearances could connect to murders committed in previous years.

Of the 158,176 criminal offenses reported to law enforcement last year, at least 79 percent resulted in no arrests or solid leads as to who was responsible. The figures show 20.3 percent of these offenses were cleared, but not necessarily offenses committed in 2017.

Among the preliminary results:

  • 1,460 rapes and attempted rapes reported; 414 cleared  — 29.7%
  • 7,631 robberies reported; 2,017 cleared — 26.4%
  • 427 (non-simple) assaults reported; 199 cleared  — 46.6%
  • 277 motor vehicle thefts were reported; 38 cleared — 13.7%

Illegal guns make it harder

"Law enforcement can only do as well as the facts they have to work with," Richard Pompelio, executive director of the New Jersey Crime Victims' Law Center, told New Jersey 101.5. "Part of my job is to critique the police and the prosecutors and make sure they've turned over every rock that they can. And for the most part, they do."

He said the most heinous of crimes, like murder, can be nearly impossible to solve when a gun is involved, particularly if the perpetrator is not legally permitted to possess a firearm.

"How are they going to convict somebody when they have no evidence?" Pompelio said. "When the killer took off? When they can't connect the gun to the situation?"

Firearms were used in 72 percent of murders in New Jersey during 2015, according to the latest complete Uniform Crime Report.

Pompelio said he's had countless conversations with homicide detectives and prosecutors who, while dealing with traumatized loved ones in the process, are "so frustrated" that they can't get their hands on enough evidence, including witnesses.

The State Police did not comment, noting the agency is only a repository for the data delivered by local and county police departments.

Violent crimes dropped by more than 8 percent from 2016 to 2017 in New Jersey, the statistics show. The number of non-violent crimes remained nearly constant.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.