Monday, April 2, 2007

Escalating Gun Toll, Escalating Response

City officials and church leaders are promising an escalated response to Boston’s rise in fatal shootings.

According to the Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, this will include federal investigations, possibly involving use of anti-racketeering statutes. A similar approach led to a dramatic fall-off in gun crime in Boston during 1990’s. Following a meeting between officials and church leaders this afternoon in City Hall, Davis said the investigation of people responsible for recent acts of gun violence is moving ahead more quickly. “They will not get away with this,” he said.

Davis said there would also be a “massive influx” of police officers in four neighborhoods most severely affected by the gun violence. The strategy would include putting administrative officers on the street one day a week.

The interim director of the Boston Ten Point Coalition, Rev. Jeffrey Brown, said church leaders would use their Easter Sunday sermons to ask for volunteers. The plan is to have those volunteers walk the streets, introducing police officers to the neighborhood, in hopes of reducing the level of distrust in the community. In recent months, officials have expressed some frustration over the apparent reluctance of people with knowledge about violent crimes to come forward.

“Our city is hurting,” said Rev. Brown, adding later, “We have to build a level of trust if we’re going to get through this period.”

The president of the Black Ministerial Alliance of Boston, Bishop Gilbert Thompson, said, “We want the people in the community to know there’s more than just 911 they can call.”

He said it was also important for families of victims to realize that getting closure by solving a case benefits the larger community.

“It’s not just the police that are asking for this,” he said, “it’s the church, it’s the community.”

Rev. Brown said the coalition was looking to have more home visits coordinated with police to deter young people engaging in violence. And he says the “ceasefire” campaign to broker truces between gangs should go citywide.