Mayor Martin J. Walsh met with community and clergy members Friday in an attempt to identify at-risk youth and families in some of the neighborhoods hit by a wave of violence that left three dead this week.
“What we’re doing now is hoping two people don’t shoot each other over the weekend . . . but it goes a lot deeper than that,” Walsh said, following a 90-minute meeting that, he said, included strategies to address chronic poverty and lack of opportunities in the affected areas.
“We have to go kid by kid, identify them . . . go kid by kid, find out what their situation is, and try to figure out what services are needed,” the mayor said.
Walsh also joined Police Commissioner William Evans at a Peace Walk in Roxbury Friday night, hoping to settle fears and hear from residents in areas hit hardest by a series of shootings and street violence.
That includes the shooting of a 14-year-old boy and the fatal shooting of a man between the ages of 18 and 21 in Dorchester Thursday night. Hours earlier Thursday, an 18-year-old man was fatally stabbed in the chest by a 15-year-old by Dudley Station, in what police called a “blatant daytime murder.”
Boston saw three homicides in less than 24 hours, bringing the city’s total to 23 this year as of Thursday night. On Wednesday, a 51-year-old man was stabbed to death on Intervale Street in Dorchester.
Friday’s peace walk drew about a dozen people, many of them volunteers, police officers, and clergy.
“We want peace in the city,” said Arthur T. Gerald Jr., senior pastor at Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, shortly before the walkers set off in steady rain.
Church members and police gathered in prayer outside the historic Roxbury church to pray for an end to violence. As the walk progressed, a woman driving a car on St. James Street slowed down and offered support to Evans.
“As we walk along the streets, we really feel people appreciate the police,” Evans said.
The mayor said city police and community outreach workers will immediately work with clergy members to identify youth who could be referred to a summer job or program, or families in need of service. Social workers will identify youth in the custody of Department of Youth Services who could soon be released and in need of assistance or resources, the mayor said, noting the victim of Thursday’s Dorchester shooting had been released from state custody only a day earlier.
The mayor said he also invited community leaders to review Boston’s strategic plan on public safety and to make recommendations by next week, calling for a holistic effort to address the violence.
“I think the biggest thing that came out of this meeting is there is a real want and a need for a long-term strategy: How do we target young kids so they don’t become gang members and they don’t become preyed upon?” the mayor said. “We’re not going to legislate our way out of it. It’s not going to happen. So we have to educate ourselves out of it.”
The mayor’s Friday summit came after several days of deadly violence that Evans said authorities had prepared for but could not thwart. In addition to the recent homicides, three men were shot at a cookout near Warren and Zeigler streets late Sunday night. Then, on Monday, two women and a man were shot in the South End.
Evans said authorities typically seek spikes in violence over the Fourth of July weekend and generally in the summer, and he had increased police patrols in Boston’s neighborhoods. The mayor said he had more officers in the city’s core neighborhoods than he did at the Esplanade, where hundreds of thousands participated in July Fourth festivities.
But while Boston has overall seen a drop in crime over the last year, the street violence has not left the neighborhoods of Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury, areas that historically have experienced the brunt of Boston’s violent crime.
“This isn’t a one-weekend phenomenon; these are experiences that folk from Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan have been dealing with for the last 35 years, and it’s important that we become innovative and leave the egos behind to sustainably address these issues we are having in our community,” said attendee Rufus Faulk, program director for the Boston TenPoint Coalition, an antiviolence group.
Evans told reporters Friday the recent incidents involve teenagers who might be involved in gangs, but he said many of the culprits and victims are also people in their 40s who might be looking to settle past scores — what he called “a wide mixture” of violence.
“I think it was the perfect storm this week. But we have some good programs here, and hopefully people will settle down,” the commissioner said.
Evans said the violence had been particularly frustrating because police had anticipated it and boosted patrols in neighborhoods but could not deter it. A police officer was on patrol a block away when Thursday’s Dorchester shooting occurred. Two walking patrol officers were in the area of the Dudley stabbing, and officers tried frantically to save the teenager’s life.
“That’s why we had [the meeting] today, to try and figure out what we’re missing here,” he said. “Obviously the visibility of being out there and being about isn’t working. It’s a community issue, it’s not [just] a police issue; there’s something more we have to do to make these kids safe because just pumping more cops out there and putting them everywhere hasn’t worked over the last week.”