Boston mayoral candidates John Connolly and Marty Walsh have spent the past few days sharpening their messages- from campaign spending to pay raises for police. WGBH News' continuing coverage of the 2013 Boston mayoral race will focus on a different theme each week- the first being public safety.

It’s a statistic that’s been thrown around a lot on the mayoral campaign trail: 80 percent of Boston’s violent crime happens in three neighborhoods: Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury.

Regina McClay, of Roxbury, said there have been several shootings near her home this year. But she’s lived there for 20 years, and said that because she has a community of friends and neighbors, she generally feels safe.

“I do get a little afraid when I see a lot of police cars flashing through the neighborhood. I do think that puts you on alarm and it’s scary,” she said.“You know, people look out for you. If they think you’re on the street too late they will say, ‘Girl, didn’t I tell you to get off the streets now? It’s after 9 o’clock.'"

McClay was attending an event at Roxbury Community College on Monday and watching mayoral candidate John Connolly greet students and voters. On the campaign trail, Connolly has emphasized working closely with parents to keep children in school and summer job programs.

“What we know is a 16-year-old dropout is one of the most likely people in Boston to be incarcerated,” Connolly said on Tuesday outside of Roxbury Community College. 

As a former public school teacher, Connolly is in favor of a program linking vocational students to community colleges, allowing them to get a high school diploma and an associates degree in as few  as five years.

“That is the ultimate link between great schools and safe and healthy neighborhoods," he said. "Part of a holistic plan – obviously other pieces that have to be involved, mental health, substance abuse, how we deal with trauma. But there is no doubt that great schools have a direct link to safe neighborhoods.”

Connolly has said he’ll create an Office of Recovery Services in City Hall, and restart a gun buy-back program. But with the departure of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, the next mayor will have to appoint a new police head, and decide whether to send more police to neighborhoods with more crime.

In his resignation speech, Davis said the city already does. 

“I would just recommend looking at the record, look at where we deploy our officers, look at where we spend our overtime," Davis said. "We’re focused on where the violence is occurring, not any particular neighborhood.”

After the July kidnapping and murder of Amy Lord, a young white woman from South Boston, Davis led a community meeting. Some former Boston mayoral candidates- Charlotte Golar Richie and John Barros- from Dorchester pointed out that deaths in their neighborhoods do not get the same response from city and state officials. Connolly has said he’d be in favor of town hall style meetings after every homicide in the city. 

But residents are also calling for a more diverse police force. Davis alluded to that in his resignation speech, while still declining to comment specifically on the mayor’s race.

“It’s important to represent the community in this building. That everyone understands that the community matters.”

And those are the thoughts in Roxbury, where Regina McClay said she’s just as concerned about police as she is about gang violence. 

“I do think that in our area of town that the decisions are very hasty. Then when they come through they flash the lights and run the stop signs, which is of great concern to me," she said of the Boston police. "The next mayor should really listen to the citizens, residents of the area to make sure there is a complete comprehensive plan that makes the community safer.”

City Hall already funnels millions of dollars in federal aid into those neighborhoods in an attempt to stem the largely gang-related violence. More police will cost more money. And Connolly has already asked the police union to go back to the bargaining table because he says an arbitrator’s decision to award officers a 25 percent raise over six years is more than the city can afford.