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Homicides in Boston dipped to 20-year low in 2019, police say

Boston’s 37 homicides in 2019 were a 20-year low for the city, police officials said in an interview this week.

Police Commissioner William G. Gross credited cooperation from residents — as well as his department’s successful collaborations with Mayor Martin J. Walsh, public health officials, and the private sector — for the historically low homicide numbers.

He praised “people coming forward to identify where guns are coming from," a key factor in keeping homicides down.

Gross had said last week that his officers took more than 700 guns off the street in 2019.

“I’m so proud of the people of Boston for coming forward,” he said Wednesday, adding that the level of neighborhood cooperation is higher than he’s ever seen in his 36-year law enforcement career. “I think we are building relationships and trust.”


Gross said city neighborhoods "are not anesthetized to violence,” and residents appear to be losing patience with the small minority of people who commit violent acts. “Why should we tolerate that?” Gross said in describing the thinking of community members.

Initially, police said last week that there were 38 homicides in Boston in 2019, compared to 56 in 2018. One death in 2019 has since been taken off the homicide tally on the grounds that it was justified, police said Wednesday.

Police solved 17 of the 37 killings in the city last year, good for a nearly 46 percent clearance rate, according to department data. But a police spokesman noted that the 2019 clearance rate climbs to nearly 65 percent by factoring in seven additional homicides committed in prior years that detectives solved last year.

That compares to homicide clearance rates of 60 percent in 2018, 61 percent in 2017 and 2016, 73 percent in 2015, 42 percent in 2014, 77 percent in 2013, 58 percent in 2012, 44 percent in 2011, 46 percent in 2010, 49 percent in 2009, and 41 percent in 2008, department data shows.


Boston police Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a department spokesman, provided additional data points Thursday morning.

Highlights include a 5 percent decrease in 2019 in so-called part one crime — such as homicide, rape and attempted rape, robbery and attempted robbery, domestic aggravated assault, nondomestic aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft — compared to 2018.

“This is the lowest overall total of Part 1 Crimes in Boston since at least 2006,” Boyle said via email. “Part 1 Crime in 2019 was down nearly 10% compared to the 5 year average. All categories decreased compared to 2018 levels with the exception of Aggravated Assault and Commercial Burglary.”

Boyle said violent crime decreased by 2 percent in 2019 compared to 2018, property crime dropped by 6 percent, citywide arrests decreased by 3 percent, total shooting victims decreased by 5 percent, and total shooting incidents dipped by 9 percent.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.