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City grapples with public safety resources

The City of Boston should raise more funding for public safety, promote crime education and get community members more involved to ensure a safer city, Boston city officials said, though statistics show crime is decreasing.

According to the Boston Police Department, most types of crimes such as homicides, robberies and thefts have been decreasing since last year, except for a slight increase in number of rapes and attempted rapes.

While public safety issues remain a concern, Boston’s long-term crime rates are decreasing overall, Nick Martin, the campaign spokesman for incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino, said in an email.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

‘The Mayor has been both a local and a national leader in his work to create safer communities,’ he said.

He credited Menino’s public safety initiatives with the crime reduction in the city. Menino started the Violence Intervention and Prevention program and Safe Street Team initiative to tackle areas with prevalent violent crime.

‘His emphasis on community policing – the idea that the same officers patrol the same beat in order to build successful relationships with the community – is a nationally recognized model,’ he said.

Despite improvements in public safety in the city, domestic violence and sexual assault still remain a common issue in Boston and the state, Toni Troop, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Coalition against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, said in an email.

‘While we’ve made progress in raising awareness and changing the norms around sexual assault and domestic violence, these crimes still occur at unacceptable rates in all communities throughout the state,’ she said. ‘Students are not immune either.’

This year has had particular challenges due to the economic crisis, she said.

‘A bad economy doesn’t create new batterers or cause sexual assault, but it does create new and greater dangers for victims,’ Troop said. ‘We have seen our members facing a greater demand for services and fewer resources, straining advocates and the network of programs.’

Although BPD was not available at press time to provide specific statistics, the Boston Indicators Project suggests that gang activity in Boston is increasing. The BIP website also indicates that the rate of youth violence is rising due to a low public budget for youth activities, fewer entry-level jobs for young people, more students dropping out and an increase in the availability of guns.

One obstacle to greater city safety is lack of funding. According to BIP, federal funding for the BPD has declined since 2001, with the number of police officers also declining.

City Councilor-at-Large Sam Yoon, who is running as deputy mayor alongside mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty, said the city council is trying to get more Safe Neighborhood Initiative grants and federal state money, including ‘grants for equipments that have been donated by the fire department [and] upgrades to emergency systems.’

Natasha Perez, spokeswoman for City-Councilor-at-Large and public safety committee vice chair Flaherty, said the people of Boston should be more active in reporting local crimes using new technology.

‘The city has a policy that they try to develop a pattern, so if someone gets raped in an area, there’s no notification until three people are raped in that area,’ Perez said. ‘It’s important that we change that to get people involved in protecting their neighborhood.’

‘The Boston Police Department has only 30 percent of rape cases solved,’ she said. ‘We need to try to involve people early in that process.’

Perez also said education is extremely important to deter crime.

‘Twenty-four thousand dropped out [of Boston Public Schools] over the last 16 years,’ she said. ‘We need real reform now. You don’t bring down crime until you educate people and put them to work.’

BPD spokesman James Kenneally said the BPD is trying to reach out the people in Boston.

‘The biggest thing is for us is to build trust with the community,’ he said. ‘Our goal is to ensure quality of life and peace of mind to the people of the city, getting out, being visible, talking to citizens in Boston and finding out what’s important to them.’

Staff reporter Xiaofei Jalette contributed to the reporting of this article.

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