A recent surge in shootings and homicides in the city is part of a “disturbing” trend that’s being blamed on an increase in gang activity and an ongoing reluctance of jittery witnesses to step forward, community leaders tell the Herald.
“People are being shot, and folks know who has shot them and they haven’t said squat,” said Darnell Williams of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts in Roxbury. “There is enough accountability to be shared with the community and the police.”
Police have seen a more than 20-percent spike in homicides this year compared to 2015 — with cops acknowledging a jump in shootings the past two months as well.
As of last night, the city has seen 40 homicides in 2016 compared with 33 during the same period last year, according to Boston police.
BPD also reported a 54-percent uptick in shootings since early last month — or 40 shootings in October and November this year compared to 26 during the same period last fall.
BPD declined to answer direct questions about any reason for the gunplay or if gang activity is the chief reason. But some activists say they know who is causing all the pain.
“It’s just gangs bumping into gangs — it goes in waves,” said Emmett Folgert with the Dorchester Youth Collaborative. “We’ve had a wave of shootings and killings.”
Williams called the escalation “disturbing.”
He said police and the community share a responsibility in establishing trust so that more witnesses are willing to talk to homicide detectives to help put more killers and shooters behind bars.
Folgert, whose organization helps keep children and young adults off the streets, insisted gang members are the culprits, noting the city’s “hot spots” — the most violent neighborhoods — can be increasingly dangerous. Those hot spots include Franklin Field at Blue Hill Avenue and the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood in Dorchester.
“The kids that live in those hot spots that police identify, every one of them is afraid,” Folgert said. “It’s an issue in their lives. They watch where they walk. They’re careful where they go. They stay off the streets — you see a lot of empty streets in particular areas.”
The vast majority of homicides police investigate are gang or drug-related. Police, however, say the city has never been safer, trumpeting a 5-percent reduction in violent crime — which includes homicides — so far this year compared to the same period in 2015.
“The city of Boston is the safest it’s been in decades,” BPD spokesman Lt. Michael McCarthy said in an email. “What we experienced was a shift in when incidents occurred, not an uptick in violence.”
To that end, McCarthy cited the city’s 38 slayings in 2015, easily a five-year low with 2011 being the deadliest at 63 murders. Boston compares very favorably to other cities of similar size in terms of homicides per year.
McCarthy added fatal and non-fatal shootings are nearly status quo this year, with 206 victims in 2016 compared with 208 victims during the same span in 2015.
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