The numbers are deeply disturbing: Nearly eighty percent of the shootings in Boston in 2010 have taken place in the three police districts that cover Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.
Last year, 223 people were killed or wounded by gunfire in Boston, and 174, or 78 percent, of the shootings took place in districts B-2, B-3 and C-11. This year, with several weeks to go, the number of shootings in the city has increased to 258, and, again, 78 percent of them were in these three districts.
The Search for Solutions
These stark numbers only convey part of the story. The real story, those on the front lines of the battle tell the Dorchester Reporter, is the impact this violence is having on those who live and work in these neighborhoods – and whether they will assert strongly to families, friends, and acquaintances that they will not tolerate the continued presence of guns or further criminal activity in the homes and on the streets of their neighborhoods. And, too, there is the overarching question of the role of the rest of Boston in this enterprise: Will they join Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan – or abandon them – in taking on the challenge of saving the streets.
Over the last several weeks, the Reporter has talked in depth with many who have signed on to the fight – police, youth workers, community leaders, and business advocates – in an effort to lay out what they believe needs to be done.
The messages are blunt: “Guns are everywhere.” If law enforcement doesn’t do a better job, “we’re going to keep losing our young.” A Dorchester woman tells of mothers who have lost control of their sons and fear for their own safety. From a veteran youth worker and business advocate came calls for more job opportunities to give young people a viable alternative to turning to crime to make money.
On the police side, the commissioner says that his officers are trying strategies that “get in the face” of gang members to let them know that they will be locked up for the pettiest of crimes.
And Rev. Eugene Rivers, who has spent the last 20 years speaking out against violence, has a singular take on the situation. He says the problem must be addressed with a new “realism” – thugs as well as peaceful people must come to understand the stakes involved in winning or losing the challenge.
In the weeks ahead, the Reporter will report on what law enforcement has been doing to crack down on the prevalence of illegal weapons in the neighborhoods, and the easy access gang members have to them.
About the Authors
Senior Investigative Fellow Stephen Kurkjian and researcher Pat Tarantino reported and wrote this package of stories for The Reporter under the auspices of Northeastern University’s School of Journalism and Professor Walter Robinson’s investigative reporting seminar. The school has received grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation to support watchdog reporting projects for Boston-area community news organizations. For more on their work with the Reporter, please see the Reporter’s website DotNews.com.
Pat Tarantino can be reached at email@example.com 
Stephen Kurkjian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 
The Reporter invites our readers to join in the discussion on line and by submitting Letters to the Editor to email@example.com .