The following was written by Live Boston’s Executive Director Cam Goggins. The opinions included in this letter do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Live Boston and it’s staff as a whole.
Over the last week or so, the area of Downtown Crossing and the Theater District have become quite a hot-button topic as it relates to public safety and the Boston Police. With gangs of teens assaulting locals, shoot-outs, and stabbings plastered across headlines and TVs in homes across the Metro-Boston area, anyone watching would think that the city has fallen into utter violent chaos with no police to be found. The truth could not be farther from that.
Violent crime in Downtown has decreased 21% from 2021, and down 29% from the 5-year average. In fact, the only category of crime that is up significantly for 2022 vs. 2021 is retail theft, and even that remains below the 5-year average. Boston Police officers from District A-1, who are responsible for these areas, have been out in force, making arrests, and holding criminals accountable daily.
Multiple firearms have been recovered and numerous dangerous criminals have been taken off the streets on top of officers responding to their normal calls including everything from missing children to parking disputes. Just two days after the tragic stabbing at Son’s of Boston, police had arrested Alvaro Larrama on murder charges.
Earlier this month Downtown DCU officers led the investigation into Anthony Gerald, who was charged with numerous drug and firearms offenses. Just last week these same Downtown DCU officers also busted a large drug trafficking ring from Maine, resulting in the arrests of Gregory Kamenides of East Waterboro, ME, and Joseph Dandreo of Limerick, ME, on multiple drug and firearm related offenses.
We also can’t forget the double shooting in Chinatown where officers not only saved two men’s lives thanks to their first aid training in the application of tourniquets, but also went on to capture both shooters almost immediately following the incident. Ven Bunton, of Lowell, and Alexio Carmello-Marquez, of Tampa, FL, both now face weapons and intent to murder charges.
As for the “gang of teens” terrorizing Downtown Crossing, the bubble of privilege that folks in their million dollar condos have been afforded for so long has seemingly been broken; our youth and city are in crisis, and this is just now getting attention as it creeps into the more white and affluent communities. What the news fails to report as they attempt to sensationalize these incidents in Downtown, is that this group of teens (ages 11 to 14 years old) have been identified for the most part, and criminal complaints have been sought in Boston Juvenile Court whenever possible. The youngest involved cannot even in fact be charged with a crime at all because they are under 12 years old, which as of the 2018 criminal reform legislation is the new age of criminal responsibility in Massachusetts. This isn’t from a lack of policing, it’s a direct result of the decisions made by legislators across the Common on Beacon Hill.
For years police have been dealing with the slowly eroding moral decay within the younger populations; led astray by social media, pop-culture, broken families, and outside influences. Just look at the countless cases of firearms being brought to school: a 16-year-old at the The Dearborn STEM Academy, 18-year-old Anthony Chen at Excel High School in South Boston, a 17 and 16-year-old duo at Tech Boston Academy… the list goes on and on. Fights and calls for police service have continued to grow across Boston Schools, just as legislators removed the Boston School Police’s powers and effectively made them nothing more than hall monitors.
Although there is hope now that these issues are getting attention, it’s hard not to get frustrated seeing how the hard work of the men and women in the Boston Police Department continues to be undermined and disregarded by the courts and politicians – seemingly to be supported only when it is white affluent communities suffering from violence. Mayor Wu or members the City Council don’t come to any of the scenes covered every day throughout Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, but these recent events get their attention.
It seems as if the news doesn’t cover violence when the victims or affected parties are not white, rich, dead. The hypocrisy is deafening. The only time these so-called leaders and the media care is when the outrage over the crime is too loud to ignore. Just last night, a neighborhood in Roxbury was shot up, firing nearly 15 rounds into homes and vehicles. That most likely won’t even make the list of stories for the day.
This morning, two of the three Boston Police Unions sent the Wu administration a letter expressing their frustrations with what they claim are city ordinances that are nothing more than “empty politics”, calling on the Mayor to “put rhetoric aside and focus on public safety”. The Superior Officers Federation went on to say, “Our members’ hands are tied with the new regulations on less lethal equipment which now forces escalation. We are critically low on staff… this puts not just our members at risk but the city as a whole. We are prepared to use all options available to us to fight for the safety of our members and the welfare of all people in the City of Boston” in their statement. How can we be outraged at the Police when politicians have continued to erect roadblocks and put obstacles in the path to successfully addressing public safety issues.
The point is this: the system is broken, but not the system most politicians and media want to talk about. Not the police or criminal justice system, but our system as a society as a whole. Our city’s morals, compassion, and pride have eroded. We have been so busy ignoring the real problems that they’re finally catching up to us. It’s time we look at what the city really needs, and it seems as if that needs to start with better leadership at City Hall.