The City Council today gave backing to a proposal by Councilor Tito Jackson (Roxbury) for a hearing to look at both specific increases in murders and shootings in Boston over the past year and more general issues about how Boston police, public-health and even housing departments can do something about it.
City Councilor Mark Ciommo (Allston/Brighton) at first rose to oppose the motion because he felt Jackson's written hearing request unfairly blamed police for all the woes in the city. Jackson said no, he wasn't, that while police should "own" increases in shootings just as much as they take credit for what they say is an overall decrease in crime in the city, the issue is much larger than police. Council tranquility was restored after a brief recess, during which at-large Councilor Michael Flaherty came up with an extra clause for one sentence that made it clear the session would not be for bashing police.
"We need a comprehensive plan," Jackson said, after stating that the overall crime decrease trumpeted by BPD masks an increase in non-fatal shootings from 174 to 246 over the past year, in addition to an increase in homicides. "We can't simply say that crime is going down because people aren't taking sunglasses and the like out of stores."
NOTE: Boston Police say non-fatal shootings actually dropped by 17 in 2016.
Jackson, who is at least thinking of running for mayor this fall, gave as just one example the issue of what to do after convicts are released from prison: They're going to need help finding a place to live, a job, even a proper ID if they're to integrate back into society and not relapse.
However, other hard feelings emerged in the discussion, unusual in a council whose members have long treated each congenially and who rarely raise their voices during meetings.
At-large Councilor Ayanna Pressley said she is sick to death of reporters and activists constantly asking her what she's going to do about violence in "her" community.
"This violence and the trauma it leaves in its wake is everyone's problem," Pressley said, calling on all the council's white members to join in the effort to do something, Because while minority neighborhoods are disproportionately affected by violence, none of Boston's communities is immune, she said. Pressley, who said she has had enough with attempts to "racialize or minimize" violence in Boston, has long made the trauma that follows violence one of her signature issues as a councilor, said. Earlier in the meeting, in a separate vote, Pressley won approval for a hearing on ways to increase the number of mental-health clinicians in the police department to better help residents affected by violence in their homes and neighborhoods.
Councilor Bill Linehan (South Boston, South End, Chinatown, downtown), meanwhile, expressed bitterness at the way the council rejected his proposal last month for a surcharge on alcohol sales to fund substance-abuse programs, when substance abuse is at the root of much of the violence in Boston.
"We had an opportunity at the end of last year to affect violence," Linehan said, noting that even in the council's more contentious past, he and Councilor Chuck Turner found common ground on the issue of substance abuse. "We need to find solutions, not just the rhetorical desire to fix things. Solutions come in the form of money."