Boston officials met Tuesday to plan and explain their holistic response to youth violence in the city after two weekends with multiple shootings.
The group tried to reassure the public that while these incidents are having an impact, violent crime in the city continues to decline.
Yet officials say young people under the age of 18 are increasingly implicated in the shootings that do occur. So city leaders have said they are trying to address this issue specifically, especially through Boston Public Schools.
Mayor Michelle Wu met with Superintendent of Schools Mary Skipper, Police Commissioner Michael Cox, Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden, District 6 Councilwoman Kendra Lara and State Rep. Russell Holmes to discuss the question in private on Tuesday afternoon.
After their meeting, the group addressed the public to detail how they intended to combat violence on the streets of the city.
Mayor Wu said the group discussed at length how to deal with the impact of violence on the community, from students to religious communities.
“Boston is a relatively small city where people know each other and each incident affects so many people in our communities,” she said.
The group also discussed expanding access to mental health services and investing in violence prevention and response, Wu said. This will include improving the work of programs already in place. and the re-establishment of workgroups that had been abandoned during the pandemic.
Wu also said they were getting Boston Public Schools more involved in violence prevention, and admitted that hasn’t been the district’s focus in recent years during the pandemic.
“[We were] it just takes dropping everything to make sure students and families are fed and safe and have the resources they need to fight off a new virus,” she said.
DA Hayden said that while the violence Bostonians see on the streets is real, Boston “still bucks other cities’ trends” in violent crime.
“Despite the recent increase, violent crime is in a relatively good space,” he said.
Wu added that Boston continues to see the year-over-year decline in violent crime that it has seen for the past few decades.
“We continue to see these numbers below last year, although any isolated incident is extremely impactful and devastating in our communities,” she said.
What has troubled law enforcement and city officials, Wu said, is that recent trends show young people, especially those under 18, having more access to guns and being involved. in more shootings.
Hayden added that Boston has been known to have a range of effective crime prevention and response programs, but those programs have never come together to fight crime at the same time.
“With this holistic approach, I think we can make a difference,” he said.
Commissioner Cox said one of the big goals of the leaders who met Tuesday is to build trust in Boston’s diverse communities.
“The police always have a role to play and we will always do everything we can to prevent things through visibility,” he said. “But the fact is that we need support and help because these issues are much bigger than traditional law enforcement.”
Superintendent Skipper said Boston Public Schools is using its mental health and restorative justice programs, as well as implementing new initiatives to address “chronic absenteeism,” to help address violence among teens. young people in the city.
“Our students need to be in school. This is where they are safest. This is where they learn. That’s where they’re supposed to be,” she said.
Skipper added that anyone who knows of people in their late teens or early 20s who have not completed in the district should contact the school’s re-engagement center.
“We need to have the opportunity to give our young people who have not been able to finish during the pandemic a plan, skills, a job, a diploma,” she said.
Councilor Lara said local government is working to strengthen the “ecosystem” that creates safe communities, as the response to crime often focuses on the youngster but not the families they come from.
“It means our neighborhoods are strong, people can afford where they live, one job is enough, and our schools are places where young people go to learn and be together,” she said.
To do this, Lara said, everyone from teachers to nonprofit workers to clergy has a role to play.
“Young people don’t wake up one day and decide to be violent. It’s something that takes time,” she said.
Watch the full press conference here:
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