Following five homicides since Sunday, Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis called Thursday for increased witness cooperation and said the use of wiretaps could aid authorities in their investigations of murders involving gangs.
Davis said Sunday’s triple homicide was a targeted attack and “most likely gang-related.”
“Quite frankly, this is a fight between good and evil,” he said, addressing a crowd of about 200 residents, clergy members, and police at Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, at a meeting called to address the spate of violence.
“We don’t have all the tools we need to attack the gang problem,” Davis said in an interview after the meeting. “Even the Supreme [Judicial] Court says the wiretap law needs to be updated,’’
The current law was written in 1968, in an era before cellphones, the Internet, and social media. Current wiretaps are allowed only in limited cases, such as investigating large-scale organized crime like the Mafia. A provision that would have expanded use to street gangs and drug activity was dropped from a crime bill Governor Deval Patrick signed into law recently.
Earlier this year, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley stood along with 10 district attorneys statewide to urge legislators to pass the updated version. He said that such a tool would take the onus off witnesses or victims of crimes who are reluctant to talk with police out of fear of retaliation.
Many people view expansion of the wiretap law as obtrusive and without guarantees that it would be used only in specific crime-fighting efforts and not disproportionately applied to minorities.
Speaking about the triple slaying Sunday, Davis said that one of the four women shot in a parked car on Harlem Street was targeted, but he declined to say which one. He did say that she “shouldn’t be viewed as anything other than a victim.”
Genevieve Philip, Sharrice Perkins, and Kristen Lartey were killed. Another woman, whom police have not identified, was shot in the leg and survived.
Davis said investigators are following numerous leads, including surveillance footage of a unique-looking white sport utility vehicle seen leaving the area at the time of the incident.
“I’m very happy with the way the case is going right now,” Davis said at the meeting, which was also attended by several elected officials, including Councilors at Large Ayanna Pressley and John R. Connolly.
The Rev. Jeffrey Brown, the executive director of the Boston TenPoint Coalition, announced during the meeting a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators of the recent homicides.
The first occurred at about 3 a.m. Sunday near 784 Canterbury St. in Roslindale. Jemald Allen, 34, was shot. The triple slaying on Harlem Street happened at 9:22 p.m. that night. On Wednesday afternoon, an unidentified man in his 20s was fatally stabbed near 65 Warren St. in Roxbury.
Most of the comments focused on the need for a sustained antiviolence campaign.
“This is a time when the men have to come together. . . . We have to stop saying, ‘I’m going to wait for the police to do something,’ ” said the Rev. Donald M. Osgood Sr., associate minister at Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan. He announced a men’s walk through the community, starting at 6:30 p.m. Saturday from the church’s parking lot.
“A line has been crossed,” Brown said. “And we cannot sit idly by and continue on with business as usual. We have to come together, and we have to find ways in which to change the game of the culture of violence.’’
Rufus J. Faulk, who has lived in Roxbury for 30 years, said he has been going to funerals since he was a boy.
“I’m traumatized right now,” he said. “The key word of the day is ‘action.’ I’ve been going to meetings like this for the past 12 years, and nothing has come of it.
“The line in the sand should have been Woolson,’’ he said, referring to a quadruple slaying in 2010 in which a toddler and her mother were among the victims.
“We have a new line in the sand every year.”