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Social work may be playing key role in our low murder rate this year

The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at Boston's incredibly low murder rate this year (so far, 3, compared to 18 in the same period in 2023; other violent crimes are also down, if not as dramatically).

The monitor starts off discussing community policing, which is something that BPD has been doing for a long time, before getting to one different thing Boston is doing: putting licensed social workers in police stations:

The greatest success has been YouthConnect, a partnership between BPD and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. The program places licensed social workers in police stations to address the underlying causes of juvenile delinquency and, hopefully, prevent crime before it starts.

YouthConnect’s approach is unique, compared with other social work models integrated within police departments. The duty of the YouthConnect social worker is to address the needs of the entire family, not just of the youth at risk.



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Boston has magnificent doctors, nurses, and EMT's that have saved countless victims of violence.

Voting closed 72

And? Prevention is still the better way to, well, prevent deaths.

I have known and still know a lot of ER and EMT folks - not a one of them would prefer to have plenty of work saving mangled people if mangled people can be not mangled.

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They do incredibly important work, it's true! But I don't think there's been a sudden increase in their number, skill, or availability that would explain such a large drop in the murder rate. Rather, isn't there an *understaffing* problem?

(I'm using 6 because of the numbers in the article, but in fact you'd want to look at how many standard deviations out that number is, and on a per capita basis, or something like that.)

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Prevention is the best medicine for social ills.
The social workers may be good for the cops too.

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Nationally, the discussions about having social workers respond to 911 calls often end up being “cops suck” vs “good luck to the wimpy social workers when a call turns violent”.

I don’t know if this program really helped cut murders as much as the article implies, but it’s great if it contributed and can help both the kids and community.

Thanks for posting and credit to BPD and the Boys&girls Club for trying things.

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Not clear why a program started in 1996 is credited with the remarkable drop in violent crime over the past 24 months. A new DA was appointed in January 2022 and a new Mayor was elected around the same time who then appointed a new police commissioner. No clue if these changes had an impact but the timeline is a better match.

Voting closed 42

And it could all just be a statistical fluke, too - maybe we've just been lucky the last few months.

But the article also starts out by talking about the community policing BPD was already doing long before Cox became commissioner, so that's not exactly new, either.

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The big drop in homicides and violent crime is being seen in basically every major American city except for DC.

I'm sure the smart policing/social worker changes is an important factor. However, the low unemployment rate and better pay for low wage jobs might be what is making the biggest impact, particularity since the change is being reflected everywhere.

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That part of what social workers do is connect people with employment opportunities?

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And the lower the unemployment rate, the more successful they will be at making employment connections for their clients.

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Getting to almost midyear with "only" 3 murders -and only one on the Blue Hill Ave corridor is pretty incredible indeed.
Without dismissing the usefulness of social workers, Boston has plenty of other factors at play:

- Virtually full employment
- Wages that have gone up the most at the lowest end
- Diminishing youth population (BPS has been loosing 1 to 2%of its student population a year for I don't know how long)
- Much improved trauma response and treatment
- Harder for bad AND "good guys" to own a gun than everywhere else in the country
- Weather: cooler spring so far than recent years

More speculative:
- Gentrification?
- Screens and video games that keep kids indoor?
- Luck? Next year probably won't be as good

Voting closed 36

In regards to gun ownership, it's never been easier to obtain a firearm, legally or illegally in MA.

For legal ownership, the police can't reject an application unless the person has a criminal record. After a recent SCOTUS ruling, the police can't consider your rationale for wanting a weapon. (You don't need to claim it's for sport or protection.)

For illegal ownership, given other states keep reducing or eliminating the buyer restrictions, it's trivial for someone to buy a gun elsewhere and keep/sell it in MA.

The economic fundamentals explain the reduction in violence better than anything else. Keeping people gainfully employed is the best violence prevention.

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Just adding a factor that's not so much an on off switch as something that's been changing for a few years now...

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It would be interesting to run a regression between gun violence and weather, although I'm not sure there's really a rich enough data set and I bet there's way too much noise. It's been a bit cooler this year than the past couple of years, but that's probably only a small part (plus it was a good deal warmer in Jan/Feb/Mar and shootings were down then, too). Based on the data Adam has going back to 2013 (although the 2013 data seems to have dropped off the site)), there are more murders in summer (May-Oct) than winter (Nov-Apr), 56% during the summer months. But even over 10 years it's a small data set.

Overall crime (counting all Part 1 crime equally) is flat because of a rise in "other larceny" which is up and is the largest category. Luck has something to do with it; murder is down 83% while shooting incidents are only down 37% and shooting victims down 48%, which are still quite significant. There have been 26 shooting incidents this year, slightly more than one per week.

The other thing to add to the list above would be a low baseline. Boston has had a relatively low murder rate, compared to many other cities its size, for a while. A lot of that due to the factors above.

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Can this be explained by the explosion of fatal overdoses in the city?

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I have access to more recent data (can't share it) but I'm not seeing any such "explosion" in Boston. Opioid-related EMS events dropped substantially in Q4 of 2023 and the drop is continuing.

Public release data here:
Dashboard here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/ems-regional-opioid-related-incident-d...

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170 in 2019. 250 in 2022. Almost 50% increase. What is it in 2023 that doesn't make it an explosion?

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Cherrypicking, much?

See 2023? That trend is continuing. You'll see it when the public facing data is released.

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I don't see 2023. What is it?

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I'm looking forward to seeing some high-profile reporting on Fox News about this urban success story.

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Nobody Left To Kill In Smoking Ruins Of Socialist Democratic City

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"liberals putting hard working gun manufacturers out of business"

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one can only hope

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As long as it's not allowed to become a repeat of what happened in the... oh... mid/late 20-aughts?

Hadn't there been a relatively peaceful stretch of a few years attributable in part to community policing and ten-point coalition and gang unit and a lot of hard work in the mid-90s that put away a lot of violent offenders - followed by a rough few years as all those violent offenders got released after ten-year sentences and went back to familiar behavior?

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Average 1980-1991 was 98, and 1989-1991 119.

Average in 1992-2000 was 62, average 1998-2000 35.

So, yes a big drop, with a lot of potential explanations.

Data from here for 1980-2000 and elsewhere for more recent years with some slightly less robust data: a 7-year rolling average for the since 1986 (for previous 7 years, inclusive, 7 picked completely arbitrarily):

1986 — 92.7
1987 — 90.4
1988 — 89.4
1989 — 90.7
1990 — 98.3
1991 — 102.7
1992 — 100.7
1993 — 99.7
1994 — 101.0
1995 — 101.4
1996 — 95.3
1997 — 81.0
1998 — 69.7
1999 — 63.7
2000 — 55.3
2001 — 52.6
2002 — 47.4
2003 — 44.6
2004 — 47.1
2005 — 52.7
2006 — 59.0
2007 — 62.7
2008 — 62.1
2009 — 60.3
2010 — 64.7
2011 — 65.0
2012 — 62.6
2013 — 58.3
2014 — 56.3
2015 — 53.1
2016 — 53.3
2017 — 51.1
2018 — 50.1
2019 — 47.9
2020 — 49.6
2021 — 47.7
2022 — 47.9
2023 — 45.7

(If someone can point me to good numbers since 2000 … I'm sure they exist somewhere!)

So, yeah, there was an uptick in the early 2000s and then a slow downward trend. Last year was the lowest since 1999 and the second lowest on record (at least … in a long while, probably a century). The disappearance of the mob probably doesn't hurt, either. The question will be where this year winds up. 31 is the previous low, right now on track for 9.

(I'd be surprised if there's not some regression to the mean, but if we averaged the June-Dec median for the past 10 years the rest of the year, we'd be around 32. In the past calendar year there have been 22; last year was pretty normal until mid-May and then other than a bloody July was way below.)

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