Leaders huddle on ways to cut down violence

Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Jul. 3, 2013

Law enforcement officials and local lawmakers on Monday outlined citywide efforts to stem violence, citing “safe street” teams to pushing for more youth summer jobs.

The afternoon press conference, held at the Shelburne Community Center in Roxbury and aimed at showing a united front among elected and police officials, comes as the city is experiencing an uptick in gun violence.

Between January 1 and June 26, there have been 22 homicides with a firearm, up from 12 during the same period last year, according to the Boston Police Department’s website. Non-fatal shootings – incidents where a victim was hit with gunfire – were at 98 in 2013, up from 80 in 2012. Firearm-related arrests have also increased, to 202 from 158.

“We do have to avert a crisis this summer,” said District 7 City Councillor Tito Jackson. Dubbing it a “coordinated response,” he was joined by state Reps. Russell Holmes and Carlos Henriquez, City Councillors Felix Arroyo and Charles Yancey as well as Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief Daniel Linskey. The array of officials also included Boston Public Health Commissioner Barbara Ferrer, Boston Centers for Youth and Families chief Daphne Griffin, who pointed to Mayor Thomas Menino’s efforts to ensure 10,000 summer jobs for youth, and William Gross, Boston police superintendent and night commander.

Linskey said police officers have made 521 “home front” visits and taken 325 firearms off the streets. “Before somebody comes into the criminal justice system, before they become an individual who’s standing before a clerk magistrate or judge on arraignment, we’re involving those families,” Linskey said. “Officers are going with clergy, with community members, to their homes, letting families know their kids might’ve started to get involved in gang activity, might’ve started to run with the wrong crew. We’re trying to intervene before they become a statistic in the city.”

Police officials are encouraging officers to get out of the car and meet with residents, he said. “We cannot arrest the problems away,” said Gross.

Earlier this year, city officials announced two new “safe street teams – a supervisor and six officers who stay in one area – that are slated to start this month in the Harvard Avenue area of District B-3 and Newbury Street. Neighborhood watch groups are walking with police officers in the evening in so-called called “flashlight walks.”

Ferrer, the public health commissioner, noting that one out of ten children under six years old in Boston has witnessed or experienced violence, said the city has added trauma-trained practitioners at health centers at Whittier Street and Bowdoin Street.