Boston has seen slightly more homicides in 2018 than in 2017, despite an overall decrease in recorded crime and gun violence across the city.
BPD responded to 52 homicides as of Sunday, which is one more than Boston’s homicide rate this time last year, according to statistics released by the BPD. However, 2017’s statistics included two incidents that were ruled homicides last year but had actually been committed in years prior, bringing the number of homicides that occurred in 2017 down to 49.
“The Boston Police Department has always said that one homicide is one too many but we are working every day in the communities we serve to make our city as safe as possible,” BPD officer Stephen McNulty said in a statement.
While there has been an increase of homicides in Boston, there has also been an overall 4 percent drop in recorded crime and an approximate 17 percent decrease in shooting incidents, from 197 to 163, so far this year when compared to 2017, according to statistics from the BPD.
Julian Lopez-Leyva, an organizer with March for Our Lives Boston, the local chapter of the national organization advocating for gun reform, said this increase in homicides was most likely a result of massive inequality seen across the city.
“Boston needs to confront itself in very sober terms, that we are one of the most unequal cities in the nation, formerly the most unequal,” Lopez-Leyva said. “Our neighborhoods are not just racially divided but economically divided.”
Lopez-Leyva said his thoughts were supported by a recent investigation by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, which found that the average non-immigrant African-American household in Boston had a net worth of only $8, while the average white household had a net worth of $247,500.
After working in the Suffolk District Attorney’s Homicide Unit earlier this year, Lopez-Leyva said he found that the vast majority of Boston’s homicides occurred in three neighborhoods: Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury, which he said he believes is the result of Boston’s extreme segregation.
“And so, a lot of these different populations that exist within these communities and do not seem to connect with each other, do not seem to speak to each other, [need to] look each other in the eyes and say that we share the same space, we need to work effectively, we need to work cohesively to mend and resolve this issue,” he said.
Lopez-Leyva said that while various social outreach nonprofits in Boston have done “tremendous work” in reaching out to these at-risk populations, these organizations need support from lawmakers at every level of government, beginning with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.
“We had Operation Ceasefire here in Boston in the early 1990s, and it was a tremendous success,” Lopez-Levya said. “… Mr. Walsh and a lot of the lawmakers in Beacon Hill need to reinvest in these programs that do help and to help people to revitalize and keep people off the streets in a positive and uplifting way.”
As for the state level, Lopez-Levya said voters and politicians needed to be cautious when deciding what activities and firearms are protected under the Second Amendment.
He also said Gov. Charlie Baker needs to work with other states in New England to coordinate their gun laws because he said the more rural states with looser regulations serve as a “pipeline” for firearms to travel into the city.
“What needs to happen is that we have to linearized gun laws in New England and across the United States,” Lopez-Levya said, “which unfortunately seems to be going in the opposite direction at this point. The same problems … pervade and affect the cities where lawmakers have passed very understanding, practical gun legislation.”
Ken Gagnon, 26, of Allston, said he found the statistics interesting because he knew several people who had fallen victim to gun violence and thought that the rising homicide rate could be attributed to Boston’s high cost of living.
“I think anywhere where there’s going to be a swarm of humans, violence is much more likely, especially when Boston is gentrifying more and more,” Gagnon said. “I can only imagine the length people will go to kind of make it to the next day.”
Downtown Boston resident Nancy Kaddis, 38, said she thought the homicide rate was surprising and said governments needed to reinforce their gun laws.
“I think, in general, a lot of major U.S. cities obviously have gun violence problems,” Kaddis said. “I think local governments should try to reinstitute more gun control laws because a lot of people with mental health issues and other issues do have access to guns, and I think that’s very scary.”
Kaitlyn Timblin, 22, of Brighton, said she thinks Boston is a safe city.
“I’ve never felt uncomfortable walking the streets at night, or I’ve never felt uncomfortable walking around in my neighborhood or anything like that,” Timblin said. “I think it’s great that the gun violence has decreased, but at the same time, I don’t think that’s the only way to commit a homicide.”