Davis says focus will be on gangs, guns in new year

Crime dropped in nearly all categories across the city of Boston in 2009. The Boston Police Department hopes to keep that positive momentum going in 2010 by staying squarely focused on gang and gun violence, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told the Reporter in an interview this week.

There were more than 2,300 fewer crime incidents reported on city streets last year, according to stats released by the BPD last week. The drop included 411 fewer incidents in Area C-11 (Dorchester) and 133 fewer incidents in B-3 (Dorchester-Mattapan). The city's homicide rate decreased for a second consecutive year, falling from a total of 63 in '08 to 49 in 2009. Davis says he is also encouraged because police investigators made arrests in more than 50 percent of the homicides committed last year, a rise over earlier years.

"It happened with better partnerships with the community," Davis told the Reporter. "We made headway into the problems of gang violence and homicide. The numbers we did have were nowhere near the level of intensity we've seen in the past."

Davis credited "focused deterrence and prevention" with the decline in violence, including non-fatal shootings. "We made sure we knew who was responsible for doing the shooting and we've driven that message home in the places we need to. I think all of the factors add up to an increase level of trust in the community," he said.

Davis said the priority in 2010 is "to keep our eye on the gang violence problem to make sure we don't have a slip there back to the problem days and at the same time look at emerging trend."

"A good example of this is that right in the first couple of weeks of this new year we have seen a number of armed robberies in several neighborhoods. We've taken a direct run at that. We're having strategy meetings and we've made many arrests over the last two weeks to knock this trend down."

Davis pointed to the deployment of five-officer Safe Street Teams —one of his own pet projects— as the "cornerstone" of the crime reduction last year. The new year, he says, is not likely to see an expansion of the program. Like last year, Davis is operating under the constant threat of potential budget cuts.

"We're still facing a financial crisis. We're working hard to keep all of our officers here,” said Davis. “We received federal money last year to help with that. We've made a commitment to keep our staffing levels up, But everyone is facing cutbacks and modeling on cuts that could happen. We're hoping we can maintain the same level of service in this tough economic environment."

One staffing decision that will come down "in the very near future", Davis says, is the appointment of a permanent commander at the Area B-3 district. The post has been filled on a temporary basis by Lt. Joseph Boyle since the November retirement of former Captain James Claiborne.

"We want to make sure we have a captain who is responsive to the community and all the prospective candidates for that post know that," Davis said. "Filling [the B-3 commander's job] is going to be a critical step forward and we realize the importance."

Davis said that there will likely be a number of command staff changes announced with the B-3 news as there are likely to be vacancies at other district stations in the new year.