Bostonians are grieving for Amy E. Lord, a 24-year-old South Boston woman who was abducted Tuesday morning from her home, forced to drive through Dorchester while withdrawing money at a series of ATMs, and then stabbed to death. Lord’s body was discovered later that day by a passerby in a wooded area of Hyde Park.
This is an anomalous crime, but one that has shattered the sense of safety in every corner of the city. The only comfort now is that police appear to be making progress in the case. Edwin Alemany, 28, has been named as a “person of interest.’’ He was in custody Thursday as a suspect in two other street attacks on women in South Boston during the same time frame.
Lord grew up in Wilbraham, a suburb of Springfield. She is emblematic of the young women who have moved to Boston in recent years as part of the city’s economic and cultural renaissance. These enterprising newcomers have given the city a new look and new sense of purpose. They arrived with the belief that Boston is safe. Sadly, as Lord’s case demonstrates, that’s not always the case. Police and other public-safety officials must strive to make it so by keeping the closest possible track of people with violent histories, especially any who randomly targeted women. Abductions by strangers are rare, but difficult to prevent.
In the meantime, police are warning women not to get into a car with an unknown individual and to make noise if they feel targeted in any way. Such advice often sounds vague or self-evident. Private self-defense instructors tend to be more specific. They recommend that anyone under attack on the street should resist, if at all possible, being taken from a public place to a more remote location. Run, scream, or fight at the outset of the attack, they say, because a victim is always safer in public view.
Some police officers feel such advice puts too much onus on the victim. But residents — especially women who are relatively new to town — deserve specific advice in light of Lord’s murder. Police should try to provide greater guidance in the interest of assuaging nerves and calming the city. It’s one way to honor Lord’s memory.
Yesterday, Rob Consalvo, a city councilor running for mayor, unveiled a public safety initiative that included a call for new solutions for preventing violence against women citywide. Domestic violence still accounts for the vast majority of attacks. Attacks by strangers, however, have a unique power to undermine the sense of safety for all Bostonians. Both should be subjects for debate in this year’s mayoral election.