Every year when summer rolls around, residents of Shirley Porcena’s neighborhood in Roxbury brace for loud gatherings outside their doors, along with fights and an almost nightly crackling: whether from fireworks or gunshots, they cannot always tell.
“People get hot, drink a cold beer, and take it to the next level,” Porcena said, cradling her 8-week-old at Dennis Street Park.
City officials had gathered at the park Monday to announce an increase of 56 police officers, a new bicycle unit of 50 officers, and other measures intended to keep residents safe this summer, especially in neighborhoods where warmth and wariness by residents go hand in hand.
But even on the afternoon of the press conference, a man died after being shot in broad daylight in Mattapan, a neighborhood where much of the stepped-up police attention will be centered. Between Friday afternoon and Monday afternoon, four shootings occurred in the city, two of them fatal, said Boston police.
The city’s summer safety plan, presented by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Police Commissioner William Evans, and others, includes an increased police presence in Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester.
In the summer, Walsh said, “young people have less structured time, and they spend more unsupervised time out late at night. Incidents of violence tend to increase. We know that the risks are there, but we are also committed to reducing the incidents and minimizing the injury.”
Evans spoke of the need to address the violence that tends to break out around the coming holiday weekend and beyond.
“This week, traditionally with July 4, has been somewhat of a violent one, but I think we have a great plan,” he said. “I’m looking forward, over the next few weeks and into the summer, where we don’t have young kids getting shot on the street.”
Walsh and Evans said crime can be curbed by keeping youth occupied. Through a summer jobs program, the mayor’s office has helped create 8,446 positions for youth in varying fields, said spokeswoman Melina Schuler. Walsh said he hopes to have helped 10,000 young people find jobs by the summer’s end.
“We want to keep the kids as busy as possible,” Evans said.
Walsh and Evans pointed to statistics that show some crime is decreasing. Violent crime is down 13 percent, compared with the same time in 2013, according to Police Department figures, and shootings are down 37 percent. Since the year began, 691 guns have been collected through the city’s buy back program and seized by Boston police, compared with 667 total guns recovered by police all last year, said Sergeant Michael McCarthy, a police spokesman.
Other city officials also spoke Monday about summer dangers beyond crime.
John Hasson, interim commissioner of the Boston Fire Department, explained the risks of lighting fireworks, which are illegal in the state. He also warned residents not to light outdoor fires and to attend to grills at all times.
Emergency Management Services Chief James Hooley warned of the symptoms and possible effects of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include excessive sweating, weakness, and fatigue, while overheating, an inability to sweat, disorientation, and unconsciousness are signs of the more serious heat stroke.
But crime was the most pressing issue to residents Monday .
At the park where city officials spoke, 12-year-old Ryan Perry said many summer evenings are limited to conversing on the porch with friends because of safety concerns. She has a strict 10 p.m. curfew.
“We have to stay within eyesight,” she said.
Josette Porcena, Shirley’s mother, said the fighting and swearing outside her Moreland Street home often keeps her awake on summer nights. She prefers to keep her grandchildren where she can see them.
“You’re confined to inside,” she said. “If those guys are out, I don’t want them out.”