KEY TRENDS AND FINDINGS
MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND INNOVATIONS 2002 - 2004
Boston is known throughout the nation for its collaborative approach to public safety. The Boston Police Department is the oldest paid, public safety department in the country. Headquartered in a state-of-the-art facility in Lower Roxbury, it operates neighborhood stations in 11 districts citywide and includes special divisions for Family Justice, Homeland Security, and Research and Evaluation. Boston’s public safety arena includes a number of other municipalities that make up Suffolk County, including Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, and encompasses the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, the House of Correction, and the District Attorney’s Office. The court system is made up of Suffolk Superior Court, eight district courts, the Boston Municipal Court, and the Boston Juvenile Court. The MBTA Police also operate throughout the public transit system, while university police serve local educational institutions. The Boston Fire Department is the nation's first paid municipal fire department, which provides fire, rescue and emergency services.
State public safety departments, including the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety, the Massachusetts Court System, and the Massachusetts Department of Correction work with the US Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Red Cross and others provide key public safety and emergency-management services.
A broad range of organizations and individuals work to promote safety in Boston’s neighborhoods in alliance with one another and with public sector personnel. These include 963 organizational partnerships developed by the Boston Police Department between 1994 and 2002, with groundbreaking alliances such as the Boston Strategy to Prevent Youth Violence formed in the 1990s.
Numerous faith-based and community-based initiatives bolster public safety, including players such as the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, Project R.I.G.H.T., the Ten Point Coalition, Ella J. Baker House, Roxbury Youthworks, the Cape Verdean Community Task Force and ROCA. Local academic partners include Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice and Harvard University’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management.
Community safety is also bolstered by in- and out-of-school programs for at-risk youth, including the Boston Public School Office of High School Renewal and the Boston Police Activities League (PAL). Other related initiatives include health and substance abuse progams in collaboration with the Boston Public Health Commission, partnerships with businesses, and the deep involvement of individuals, parents and families through programs like Safe Watch. The City of Boston also coordinates Homeland Security programs in partnership with other inner core municipalities, particularly those ringing Boston Harbor.
KEY TRENDS AND FINDINGS
Public safety successes in Boston over the past decade are attributed to creative, multi-sectoral initiatives and partnerships. Boston is challenged to deepen these approaches and to develop new responses in the face of increasing youth violence, declining public perceptions of safety, and funding pressures, including a combination of budget cuts and new homeland security priorities. (see indicator 8.6.1) The Boston partnership model includes law enforcement agencies, faith-based communities, school, after-school and summer programs, public health departments, business leadership, the academic community, and community-based organizations and mobilization. In addition, the Boston Police Department (BPD) has invested in neighborhood policing and data-driven initiatives that distinguish it from some cities’ more aggressive crime reduction policies. However, budgetary constraints are affecting the public safety arena: the city’s police and fire forces cut staffing by about 6% and 5% respectively between early 2002 and 2004, tied to a decrease in state aid. (see indicator 8.1.1)
Violent crime decreased in Boston by almost 50% between 1990 and 2003. A recent upturn in youth homicide is linked to an increase in the city’s juvenile population, new gang-related activity, and fewer activities and jobs in the economic downturn. (see indicator 8.2.1) Boston’s adolescent population was projected to increase by 45% among 10-14 year olds and 38% among 15-19 year olds between 1995 and 2005 – ages associated with crime — according to the Boston Coalition Against Drugs and Violence and Northeastern University’s Heart of the Cit