Despite an alarming spike in homicides and shootings on his district this year, the commander of the B-3 Boston Police says that crime is actually down in most categories in the Mattapan-Dorchester area. This month, Captain Timothy Murray is canvassing community meetings and crime watch groups in the area in an attempt, he says, to "put in perspective what is actually happening out on the streets."
"The average perception is that crime is way up [in district three] when in reality crime on district three is way down," Murray told the Reporter in an interview last week. "We've seen the greatest decrease in part one crime in the city since the start of the year."
Murray says that there has been a 13 percent drop in part one crimes - the seven most serious crimes tracked by police across the country - in the district between January 1 and September 26. The drop comes in spite of a roughly 300 percent increase in homicides on B-3, a spike caused by a string of summertime incidents that left several neighborhood men dead and several more injured. Since January, there have been 22 homicides recorded on B-3, the highest total of the city's 11 police districts.
"What's up are homicides and the shootings and those numbers are totally unacceptable and we're going to get them down," said Murray. "But the vast majority of these incidents have been targeted people. They involve personal feuds and gang vendettas by known assailants on known victims and an ongoing feud between two parties. The average citizen is not at risk."
Using a PowerPoint slideshow with detailed crime stats, many of Murray's autumn nights are spent on the civic circuit in Mattapan and Dorchester, where he is emphasizing the difference between targeted, gang-related violence and "stranger on victim crimes" like robberies, stolen cars and burglaries, all of which he says are "way down."
According to Murray, robberies of business and individuals (muggings) are down 18 percent over last year's numbers. Burglaries (breaking and enterings) are down by 11 percent and the stolen car rate has decreased by 33 percent. Murray attributes the last figure, which he calls "whopping," to a public awareness campaign aimed at neighborhood residents who own cars that are favored by thieves.
"We're doing on average two or three meetings a week. And we just started mailing letters to every Camry, Civic and Accord owner in district three. We get a list from the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the letter basically says that if you own this car, you should install an anti-theft device."
Murray says B-3 police will sell steering wheel locks known as clubs to residents at a discount price of $10.
"We're very concerned about the perpection out there , because everyone thinks crime is up. One lady said to me, 'It's like a mafia war going on with these individual gangs.'
"And, yes, the public could be at risk with stray bullets. We're definitely all over this and the incidents will come down, mark my words.
"Part of the problem is that, among some of the people involved, a beef is never squashed. We have to change that mindset. In the meantime, we're very committed to the tens of thousands of good people who live here and think all hell is breaking loose and crime is rampant.
"But we've got crime down 13 percent, in large measure, because of the stellar efforts of men and women in blue and plainclothes in B-3. The average homeowner should know, [crime is] on a downtick here. And we're proud of that."
Serious crime has also declined in Dorchester's other main police distric, C-11. Last month, Captain Thomas Lee told the Reporter that Part One crime was down in C-11 in all but on category: commercial and home burglaries, which are up slightly over last year's numbers. Homicides and robberies are down 25 percent compared to 2003
B-3's Sgt. Byrne Gets State's Top Cop Honor
For the third time in his career, a Boston Police officer received the state's most prestigious law enforcement honor for bravery when he was awarded the 2004 Trooper George L. Hanna Memorial Award at a State House ceremony on Tuesday. Sgt. Charles Byrne Jr., of District B-3, received the George L. Hanna Medal of Honor, the highest medal awarded to law enforcement in the state, after he was shot on Jan. 1, 2003, while trying to arrest a gun-wielding assailant. Officers Robert Welby, who was also shot during that incident, and officer Dennis Cogavin, both of District B-3, also won the state's top law enforcement honor. Another officer who was involved in the same incident, Officer Robert Cappucci, of District D-14, won the George L. Hanna Medal of Valor.
In 2000, Byrne also won the George L. Hanna Medal of Valor for helping arrest a suspect who had fired five shots into a crowd of people. Four years earlier while with the Anti-Gang Violence Unit, he received a special citation for shielding a female prisoner and shooting a suspected drug dealer.
Officer Adam Gill, with District B-2, also was awarded the same Medal of Valor for tackling a fleeing suspect who had shot five people in Roxbury on Nov. 5, 2003. Three other Boston Police officers, Michael Doyle, Michael Mylett and Sgt. John Danilecki, all from District B-2, received Merit Awards in connection with that same incident.