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Editorial: Crackdown on motorbikes must extend to all the rules at city parks

Harambee Park rally: About 50 people turned out for a Tuesday evening rally near the scene of Monday night's shooting of a 4 year-old boy. Photo by Pat TarantinoHarambee Park rally: About 50 people turned out for a Tuesday evening rally near the scene of Monday night's shooting of a 4 year-old boy. Photo by Pat Tarantino

Monday’s shooting of a four-year-old boy at Franklin Field’s Harambee Park was an assault on all of our children, no matter where we live or what park we frequent with our families. If this sort of atrocity can take place anywhere in our city, we are all — everyone— diminished by it.

We do not yet know the identity of the little boy or his family, but our first reaction as a community must be to comfort them. We are grateful to the clergy members and others who have stepped up to be at their side and aid them in their time of need.

Sadly, we’ve been here before and there are many mothers, fathers, and siblings who have walked the trail his family walks this week . Thankfully, it now appears that the young victim will be a survivor— and that may be the only good thing that can be said about this sorry episode in our community.
The focus of law enforcement — and the community at-large— must next turn to the apprehension and prosecution of the shooter. The person responsible for this crime must be exposed and brought to swift and certain justice. His capture must be a priority for all of us.

In the hours after Monday’s shooting, the mayor rolled out a new set of orders to police and other city agencies aimed at motorbikes, which have become a nuisance in the Franklin Field neighborhood and in other parts of the city. The vehicles, while not illegal, are widely misused and are often seen, and heard, buzzing through city parks— including Harambee— where they are prohibited. One source tells us that as many as 30 motor bikes were buzzing around Franklin Field on Monday night.

Neighbors say this problem has been largely ignored by law enforcement recently. Monday’s shooting has changed that. Menino also intends to seek a home-rule petition to ban the motorbikes altogether. That is something that Menino, our City Council, and state lawmakers should push through immediately to put Boston on par with other big cities.

But, bikes are not the only public nuisance in our parks. Menino’s administration and the BPD should aggressively enforce all city ordinances, including a ban on open flames, alcohol, and after-hours gatherings in general. For too long now, flagrant abuses of current city park rules have gone unchallenged, especially around Franklin Field, where large groups of people often congregate after-hours. There is a reason city parks are off limits to everyone after dark: That is when troublemakers prey on each other and their neighbors. Unless specifically permitted, such gatherings should be shut down when the sun falls; the city needs to be vigilant about its existing rules.

It’s sad to say, but we live in a city and a country where armed individuals can and do shoot other people, including innocent children. It’s a revolting reality — and one that we have been compelled to face before. The fact that it has precedent does not make this incident any less outrageous. In fact, it should give us cause to evaluate how all of us— as a community— have failed to address chronic public safety and behavior problems that are on our watch.

Crackdowns and manhunts are all well and good. But we need to be thoughtful about how to protect our kids from further injury in our public parks. That starts by enforcing the laws on the books.
- Bill Forry

Editor’s Note: The offices of the Reporter will be closed next Monday, July 4, in honor of the Independence Day holiday. Our deadline for news feature copy for the next edition has been moved to Fri., July 1, at 4 p.m. Advertising copy must be received by Tues., July 5, at noon.