Shootings up, overall crime down as Boston exits 2020
Homicides were up compared to 2019, but essentially the same as 2018, Boston police noted
By Sean Philip Cotter
BOSTON — Shootings and killings were up in Boston last year, though crime on the whole dropped as a turbulent 2020 mixed around jumps in some types of criminal activity with reductions in others.
Boston saw 57 homicides in 2020, according to end-of-year police data, up from 37 in 2019. That includes 45 fatal shootings, up from 28 the previous year, and there were also 231 nonfatal shootings, as compared to 163 in 2019. The 276 shooting victims were above the 226-victim average of the previous five years.
The police department noted that homicides essentially were the same as they were in 2018, when 56 people were slain, so this was not that unusual of a year in that regard.
"Our police officers work hard everyday together with members in our communities to stop violence in its tracks and keep our residents safe, and any loss of life or senseless act of violence is tragic and only drives us to work harder on their behalf," Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said in a statement.
Cops made 448 firearms arrests in 2020, up from 398 the previous year.
Mayor Martin Walsh, asked about the violence in a press conference on Tuesday, said, "There's no question in my mind that coronavirus added to that."
"When you look at the second half of the year, we were able to actually get back on the street, being able to engage our community residents and activists again," Walsh said, referring to the city's street teams and anti-violence workers, programs and school. "I think that, you know, we've readjusted and taken a different approach — now hopefully in 2020 we get those numbers back down."
Other crime was a mixed bag, buffeted by the forces of 2020, though the city as a whole saw a 5% drop in total serious crimes.
Commercial burglaries went through the roof, with 554 versus 340 in 2019 — a hike largely driven by the night of May 31, when racial-justice protests devolved into rioting, police have said. In a rare bit of good news from the year, reported rapes and attempted rapes are down, with 179 last year as compared to 230 in 2019.
Robberies, residential burglaries and general theft all dropped by double-digit percent margins — though car thefts increased by about the same. Cops have said the pandemic likely caused those changes, as people have remained home much more than usual.
Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, a Four Corners-area pastor who co-founded the Boston TenPoint Coalition, said the combination of the virus, the increase in poverty that came with it and the anti-police attitudes that prevailed starting in the early summer all contributed to a "nihilism" among many — and among the youth, that led to violence.
"One of the things that the city has to focus on is a more rigorous evaluation protocol for prevention and intervention work," he said, saying the city must "reengage" with the fact that street violence is up. "It didn't begin yesterday, and it won't end tomorrow."
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