Last Monday and Tuesday night, I visited neighborhoods across Boston, from Hyde Park to Brighton, from Mattapan to East Boston, for “National Night Out” with members of the Boston Police Department and Commissioner William Evans. We spent time with residents of all ages in nearly every neighborhood, playing games, eating food and ice cream, and talking to as many people as possible. It was a great turnout, and I’d like to thank everyone for coming together and participating in this annual summer celebration.
Of course, National Night Out is about much more than the fun activities. It is about raising national, and critical, awareness of community policing. In a time of national tension between police and individuals, Boston stands as a shining example of successful community policing. I want to thank our dedicated police officers for their service to our city and its people. And I want to thank the community for their support and engagement with the men and women of our police department.
But while we have had success, we cannot rest on our laurels. Like the rest of the country, we have more work to do to ensure that we not only maintain this positive relationship but also grow and strengthen it for the future.
That’s why Commissioner Evans and I, with help from the rest of the BPD, are rolling out additional initiatives to increase trust and goodwill between police and residents. It is our hope that these programs will open up opportunities to have a broader conversation, and help us think critically about policing in our communities.
One of the initiatives that has shown the greatest impact is the Neighborhood Peace Walk program. We encourage clergy members to join local leaders, Boston Police, and other advocates in a series of walks, especially in areas that have been struck by recent acts of violence. Summertime is known to have an uptick in violence, so it is especially important that we are conducting these walks and reinforcing positive messages throughout the summer. The value of these walks has been enormous; the feedback and conversations we’ve gotten have been insightful. Our success is due to our willingness to listen and learn from each other, and the desire we share to create a better future for our city.
When it comes to engaging with our youth, Boston Police reach out in creative and fun ways. In 2014, we began the popular Operation Hoodsie Cup, in which a BPD ice cream truck hands out thousands of free Hoodsie Cups to children throughout the city. Just last week, we were excited to unveil a brand new ice cream truck. Not only does this truck represent a commitment to connecting with our children, but it also shows the dedication our officers have to keeping our young people safe and secure in the neighborhoods.
As mayor, it’s my belief that these examples of outreach go a long way toward strengthening relationships between our police department and the neighborhoods they patrol. And I continue to be amazed at the incredible number of residents, leaders, and community organizers who make the effort to attend and speak with us at these events.
Now, more than ever, it’s clear to me how much our police and residents care about each other. It’s evident in how hard we work to communicate and engage with one another to keep this city safe. It’s evident in the enormous restraint officers have shown this summer when making peaceful arrests, even when confronted with a lethal weapon. And it is evident in the fact that Boston has the lowest major crime rate – and the sharpest drop in arrests – in a decade.
Clearly, we are fostering something special. Together, we are creating a safer, stronger, and more unified Boston.
Martin J. Walsh is the mayor of Boston.