By Jess Bidgood
Nov. 11, 2010
BOSTON — It seems every day recently there has been news of another slaying in Boston. The quadruple murder in Mattapan back in September brought the city to its knees – and since then, individual murders have continued, even if they don’t make front-page headlines.
This weekend, a man died of stab wounds sustained outside a Roxbury liquor store, and another murder happened Wednesday night.
Boston’s murder rate is indeed up 46.5 percent since this time last year: 64 people have been killed in Boston in 2010, compared with 43 by this day in 2009. The city’s police commissioner, Ed Davis, told WGBH’s Emily Rooney on Thursday he attributes that spike to an up-tick in drug-related crime.
“The individuals involved (in the city’s homicides) are primarily gang members or people involved in the drug trade,” Davis said. “We’re seeing people with long records who have been recently released from jail either as the victims or the suspects.”
This source of violence has changed the demographic of most murder victims: Their average age has increased from the early 20’s to the early 30’s.
Davis said the problem is in the trade of drugs like cocaine, crack and heroine, and added that enduring unemployment and economic struggle may be fueling people’s turn to those substances for income.
“We’re dealing with long-term economic downturn, people who have clean records and and great backgrounds are having difficulty finding jobs, so I suspect that people with records who are getting out of state prison are also having difficulty,” Davis said.
But Davis struggles to explain why more drug activity necessarily means more murder. “(They are) random, vicious acts,” Davis said. “It’s hard to explain or put logic to something that is illogical.”
Davis said the police are trying to counteract the violence with a strategy that incorporates prevention of violence and community involvement.
“We’ve been concentrating on gang members and drug dealers who are clearly involved in violent activity and taking them out of the equation through drug investigations and long-term investigations,” Davis said.
Last week, Davis announced a staff shakeup at the BPD that may also be targeted at reducing the homicide rate. Gary French, previously the deputy superintendent charged with the city’s gang unit, has been demoted and replaced by Deputy Superintendent William G. Gross. Lt. Detective Robert Merner will replace Lt. Detective Steven M. Meade as head of the drug unit.
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