Flanked by clergy members, Boston Police Superintendent in Chief William Gross declared police and religious leaders a “united front” in the fight against gang violence, and said Wednesday that the city is mulling a gun buyback program in response to this month’s spike in homicides.
The church would play a vital role in a take-back effort: Any person who wants to turn in a firearm but does not wish to deal with the police, Gross said, could hand it over to a clergy member.
But such an effort is still conceptual, and is only one of the tactics discussed Wednesday at a meeting between police and clergy on quelling the recent spike in shooting deaths.
“We intend to go forward together to fix the quality of life in the city of Boston, because obviously, not everyone’s getting the message that we want this to be a peaceful city,” said Gross. “This is not acceptable what’s going on.”
Between Friday and Monday, four young people were killed in Dorchester and Mattapan in what officials have said were probably related gang shootings. Police said Trevain Keene, 22, of Boston, was killed Friday night on Callender Street in Dorchester; on Sunday night, 22-year-old Julien Printemps was shot to death in Ashmont, and was identified by his mother. About six hours later, a man and woman in their 20s were gunned down on Rosewood Street in Mattapan. Police have not identified them, but Printemps’s mother said her son had dated the young woman in the past.
Gross said police took 667 guns off the street last year, and this year have confiscated 30.
The latest seizure was early Wednesday morning, when police stopped a car speeding on Blue Hill Avenue and arrested 19-year-old Jahmeilla Tresvant who had allegedly hidden a loaded silver revolver in her underwear, according to a police report. Tresvant was in a car with three other people, according to the report, two of whom were allegedly members of a local gang. That gang, according to the report, has a longstanding feud with other local gangs, which the report says “culminated over the weekend” when a gang member was shot.
The meeting between police leaders and clergy was the first in response to the recent killings, but the participants vowed it would not be the last.
“We’ve had an uptick in the violence. Last year, we had about the same amount of shootings, but this year, they’ve been more deadly,” Commissioner William Evans said before the meeting. “I’m going to challenge the clergy today to come up with some ideas that they can get the toughs in the community to surrender guns.”
The clergy responded to the challenge.
“We’re looking to find ways to . . . reach out to this generation of youth who are committing these acts of violence. They are our children, this is our community,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Brown of Twelfth Baptist Church.
Associate Pastor Mark Scott of the Azusa Christian Community said spikes in gang violence are often deliberate escalations, sparked by old gang feuds.
Scott said part of the solution is to go into the prisons and talk to the young people, to get them on the right track before they are released.
But Scott added that while the killings are tragic and upsetting, the city is not in a crisis.
“The city does not feel, to me, like it’s a frightening place, or like it’s coming apart,” he said. “We have to pay attention to this. We have to work hard. . . . But we’re not out of control.”