Boston Vows to Utilize Tech, Outreach to Battle Crime

The new strategy comes after Mayor Martin J. Walsh promised a “fast-tracked” set of changes in the wake of a Herald report detailing the city’s grim inventory of 336 unsolved slayings over a decade’s time.

by Matt Stout and Antonio Planas, McClatchy News Service / August 13, 2014

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and Boston police brass will unleash an accelerated attack on violent crime and unsolved murders hinged on new technology and stepped-up outreach at the street level.

The new strategy, detailed in a one-hour Herald sit-down with Walsh, Conley, police Commissioner William B. Evans and several of the city’s top lawmen, comes after the mayor promised a “fast-tracked” set of changes in the wake of a Herald report detailing the city’s grim inventory of 336 unsolved slayings over a decade’s time.

“There’s a lot of changes being made,” said Walsh, who shed more light on some recently announced proposals while unveiling others. “At the end of the day, is the system going to be perfect? No. You’re dealing with people who have a gun and shoot somebody. You can’t rationalize with somebody that pulls a gun out, points it at somebody else and pulls the trigger. (But) we have to get the bad guys off the street.”

The changes the city is pursuing include:

• Launching a community advisory group, headed in part by the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, who is gathering community leaders to team with police to help them stay connected with families of murder victims;

• Chasing federal grants for more public surveillance cameras and reviving the city’s license plate scanning program, a controversial effort shut down last year over concerns about the data the high-tech scanners were collecting. “That’s going to be back out there,” Evans said;

• Combining the city’s Street Workers program with the privately run “StreetSafe Boston,” whose dual efforts to connect with at-risk youth often overlapped; and

• Pushing for a better-funded witness protection program, which Conley said struggles to meet demand at its current $94,000 budget.

“This is not an easy nut to crack. ... We’re going to do our best to build this trust with the community, but let’s not kid ourselves. There’s going to be some killings that are going to be very, very hard to solve because of this culture, this code of silence, that we’re up against,” Conley said. “Unless we have witnesses, the only other thing we can do is rely on technology.

“Our standards are high,” he added, referring to what it takes to charge a murder suspect. “That doesn’t mean the bar is set at an excessive level. Evidence comes in many forms, but the most important form is the words of witnesses who saw something and tells us what they saw.”

The Herald found that black males were killed at 10 times the rate of white males in the city, but only had their murders solved 38 percent of the time. But Evans insisted that investigators are color-blind when probing homicides. Conley said the perception that murders in the minority communities aren’t given the same weight “is not rooted in reality.”

“The men and the women of this department, we are working our hardest,” Evans said. “Our units are out there. ... The bigger piece that we need is the community’s help.”

©2014 the Boston Herald