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Cold weather doesn't mean reprieve on crime

There is some encouraging news on the public safety front this week. As we report this week on Page One, official Boston Police statistics show some progress has been made in reducing violence on the streets of Dorchester and Mattapan.

The numbers - while promising, in the macro sense - do little to ease the grief of those who have lost a loved one, or the anxiety of parents who have every right to fear for their children's well-being on our streets. Let there be no doubt: We still face a profound problem with violence in our communities and - in the looming fiscal storm - our commitment to public safety should take a back seat to no other issue.

The change of the seasons, with colder temperature and early darkness, may suggest for some that the most dangerous time of year has passed by. But such thinking is illusory; let us not forget that some of the most horrific crimes in the neighborhoods historically have occured during the cold weather months. The shooting deaths of innocents - such as Louis D. Brown, Junior Fernandez, Robert Noble - all took place in winter. Just three years ago, the infamous Bourneside Street slayings in December 2005 stand as the worst single homicidal act in our neighborhood's recent history.

Last January, C-11 police recorded four murders within the first few weeks of 2008, and for awhile, it seemed the murder rate this year might surpass the previous 12-month total. Our community must not let down our guard in the false assumption that because there are fewer people congregating in our parks and street corners, the evil-doers have somehow reformed. We hope our city police and political leaders will continue to prioritize police patrols and other community policing techniques. and sustain the momentum that so far seems to placing some controls on rampant neighborhood violence.

On the civic side, it is essential for crime-watch groups, merchant and civic groups as well as individual citizens to remain vigilant. Keep an eye out for the safety of your neighbors and yourselves, and leave a porch light lit, and be sure your vehicles and property are properly secured. If your civic group takes a break during the holidays, stay in touch with neighbors with e-mail and phone chains. Call the police if you see something amiss.

Under Commissioner Ed Davis, the city's police officers have made progress in fighting crime, and they should be saluted for their efforts. But, this campaign against crime must be a citywide, team approach. And it must be relentless.