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    Mothers press for answers after Mattapan death

    Group convenes with police, clergy to renew efforts to curb violence among young

    Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Gerard Bailey listened to Sarah Flint, of Mothers for Justice and Equality, in Roxbury.
    Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
    Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Gerard Bailey listened to Sarah Flint, of Mothers for Justice and Equality, in Roxbury.

    When Sarah Flint first learned that a 14-year-old Mattapan boy had shot and killed his 9-year-old brother Friday, she felt a familiar pang of grief.

    “I was very upset, close to tears,’’ she said.

    The news hit particularly hard, because it was clear the family had sought outside intervention to aid a child who seemed headed down a path toward violence. “I just feel so badly for that family,” Flint said, “especially that mother, knowing that she reached out for help and no one helped her.”


    Flint’s own 15-year-old son was stabbed to death three decades ago in a fight with a 17-year-old boy over a new dirt bike Flint had bought for her son’s birthday. Since then, she has worked to end violence, and Friday’s killing in Mattapan only intensified her efforts to help traumatized mothers and children in crisis.

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    On Monday in Roxbury, Flint sat next to police officers, clergy members, and mothers whose children have been cut down by street violence. The meeting, held by Mothers for Justice and Equality, was among the latest in a string of efforts aimed at better coordinating antiviolence initiatives that take place across the city.

    “There are a lot of programs out there doing antiviolence prevention, but there’s no coordination,’’ Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Monday. “It’s like having a bunch of crime watch groups in different neighborhoods, but no one talking to each other. So we need to talk to each other.”

    On Monday, Walsh said he has not met with the Mattapan family in Friday’s killing and did not have plans to meet with them. He would not talk about details of the investigation.

    Since the killing, Walsh has appealed to parents across the city to search their children’s rooms for guns and urged an improved gun buyback program aimed at taking illegal weapons off the streets.

    Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
    Members of Mothers for Justice and Equality met with Boston police and clergy Monday to discuss gun violence.

    Walsh’s response to Friday’s violence comes amid a rash of violence since the beginning of the year, including nine homicides through Feb. 2, compared to three during the same period last year. The jump prompted Councilor at Large Ayanna Pressley to call again for more investments in a coordinated citywide trauma response.

    “Our parents are doing everything they can,’’ said Pressley. “They are overextended. No one should be parenting alone. They need support.”

    Since he took office, Walsh has embraced a coordinated approach to curbing violence. One of his first meetings in office included convening clergy, parents, and advocates to discuss how the city can best crush crime. He also stopped by Boston Medical Center’s Violence Intervention Advocacy Program, which works to reduce repeated crime among shooting and stabbing victims.

    Still, trouble continues to plague pockets of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, where more than 70 percent of the city’s violent crime occurs, according to figures from Mothers for Justice and Equality.

    “They are not calling on us to marry them; they are calling us to bury them,’’ said the Rev. Vernard Coulter, a local pastor.


    Less than 20 percent of the homes are owner-occupied in some violence-plagued areas, an indicator of tough socioeconomic realities, the group said. Most of the households are headed by a single female with children under age 18.

    ‘We need to wrap our arms around that family.’

    In many cases, as violence flares among boys and girls, some parents have no idea that their children are deeply involved in behavior that could lead them to prison or leave them victims of crime, group members said at the meeting.

    Advocates and police vow to be vigilant.

    “I wear the uniform, but I also care about kids on the street,’’ said Police Deputy Superintendent Nora Baston.

    Monalisa Smith, who heads Mothers for Justice and Equality, said support is needed all around.

    “A lot of the focus was on mothers and how do we support the mothers that are running into problems with their children,’’ Smith said.

    Flint said the work is never done, especially when tragedies like the one in Mattapan occur.

    “We need to wrap our arms around that family,’’ she said. “My thing is, how many others are out there?”

    How many more need help, she asked.

    Andrew Ryan of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Meghan E. Irons can be reached at