As Independence Day approaches, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said the city is focused on safety — from the coronavirus, from violence, from fireworks.
Walsh’s annual Fourth of July press conference is usually an occasion to caution against violence in the city. But on Thursday, Walsh struck a different tone. He encouraged residents to avoid large gatherings because of the coronavirus.
Though the spread of the disease has slowed significantly in Massachusetts, Walsh said, he cautioned that a resurgence is possible, which would mean even more lives lost.
“I urge everyone just to think about the reality of these losses,” Walsh said. “I think about the success that we have had, bringing these numbers down here in Boston and in Massachusetts, and think about our ability to prevent further death and suffering by the actions that we take this weekend, and moving forward.”
Coronavirus represents a new threat to public health, but the holiday weekend has often meant an uptick violence in the city. Last year, 17 people were shot over four days around the Fourth of July, including an 8-year-old girl. All 17 survived. In 2018, three people were killed and another seven injured in the first week of July.
Boston has had 22 people killed in homicides since the start of this year, three of them this week. Early Thursday police found a 45-year-old man, Rashawn Washington-Clark, shot and killed in Dorchester. A man was also shot and killed Thursday night on Hosmer Street in Mattapan. He was not identified.
This year, as public officials in Boston have increasingly considered a shift from a reactionary law-and-order approach to a preventative social services-based one, Walsh pointed to increased youth outreach from police and from the city’s Streetworkers Program.
“Our mission [is] lifting people up, not locking people up,” Walsh said. “They’re out every day supporting vulnerable members of our community. This is truly a system designed for engagement and support and harm prevention, and it will be the strongest system when the budget investments that began yesterday in this new fiscal season are implemented.”
Walsh also touted this summer’s youth jobs program, set to begin next week.
Boston Police Commissioner William G. Gross said the department will have more officers out in the city’s neighborhoods this year, and said he hoped officers could answer every call quickly.
“We have 400 guns off the street, and that’s not a pat on the back for BPD,” Gross said. “It’s all of us together. So, despite of what people think about ‘stop snitching,’ our neighborhoods are helping out — 400 guns off the streets, several arrests. So let’s continue to do that.”
Walsh also reminded Bostonians — as he has repeatedly in recent weeks — that fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts.
“Think about the people that you’re impacting,” Walsh said. “Think about what it means to be part of a community. Think about the consequences of your actions.”
Correspondent Adam Sennott contributed to this story.
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