Major American cities have convulsed with increases in street violence during the first half of the year, but Boston appears to be an exception.
Through July 4, the city had experienced 19 homicides, versus 27 slayings for the same time period last year. This year’s number of killings was also less than Boston’s five-year average of 33 during the time period, according to the Boston Police Department.
Additionally, there were 32 fewer shootings — 123 last year versus 91 this year. The number of fatal shootings also decreased from 21 to 11.
Overall, what is referred to as Part 1 crime, which includes homicides, rapes, aggravated assaults, robberies, larcenies, burglaries, and auto thefts, was down 17 percent.
Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a department spokesman, attributed the decrease in street violence to the “dedicated officers, men and women who are out in the street day in and day out, protecting the people of Boston.”
“They’re taking guns off the street daily,” Boyle said.
Indeed, while shootings have decreased in Boston this year, gun arrests are up, as the department reported 299 gun-related arrests this year versus 248 last year.
It’s a stark contrast with what is going on in other major US cities, many of which are grappling with more street killings this year.
In March, The New York Times reported that data showed a cohort of 37 American cities saw an increase in murder of 18 percent during the first three months of 2021, when compared to the same time period last year.
In May, CNN reported that “Nearly all major American cities are seeing spikes in violent crime.”
The widespread increases in violence have prompted reaction in Washington, D.C. Recently, Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasized that federal prosecutors are working with “local partners to establish an immediate plan to address the spike in violent crime that typically occurs during the summer.”
At the same press conference, President Biden warned that with the country reopening from the COVID-19 crisis, summer violence “may even be more pronounced than it usually would be.”
A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, meanwhile, recently seized on the crime surge to blast Biden.
“Biden’s failure to hold his own party accountable for defunding police is endangering communities and triggering a spike in crime across the country,” she said.
According to Christopher R. Herrmann, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in the first three months of the year Atlanta saw homicides increase 57 percent, Indianapolis saw a 189 percent spike, Miami 100 percent, and Oakland 209 percent.
Comparatively, Boston’s crime statistics, Hermann said in an e-mail, are “not too bad actually.”
“I am impressed that gun arrests are up, shooting incidents/victims are down, homicides are down — these are all good trends,” he said. “Most PDs have similar increases in gun arrests . . . but their shootings and homicides are increasing and much higher than the highs of 2020.”
Last year, with COVID-19 raging throughout Boston’s neighborhoods, the city saw an increase in violence. Shootings and homicides spiked, compared to 2019, when the city hit a 20-year-low for homicides.
Jack McDevitt, director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice, said he recently heard from police chiefs of major cities throughout the country talking about substantial increases in violent crime, including shootings and homicides.
“It seems that Boston is not experiencing that,” he said.
He noted that the Police Department was in a unique situation, with no permanent commissioner and awash in multiple controversies, while adding, “What you’re probably seeing is good cops on the street trying to do their jobs and lots of community folks helping out.”
Of Boston’s crime statistics, the Rev. Willie Bodrick II, senior pastor at Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, said, “I won’t say it’s encouraging, but I’m glad we’re not seeing an uptick.”
Bodrick said he hoped community leaders would continue to “think critically about investments in our young people” and “create a holistic safety net.”
“Any act of violence, any loss of life matters,” he said.
Boston police have been embroiled scandal in recent months. The nation’s oldest police force is currently led by an interim commissioner, Gregory Long, after Acting Mayor Kim Janey fired commissioner Dennis White earlier this month, following the reemergence of decades-old domestic violence allegations against White, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
In addition, a recent Globe investigation revealed the department determined in 1995 that Patrick M. Rose Sr., onetime president of the patrolmen’s union, had more than likely molested a 12-year-old child. The department had repeatedly refused to release the case files or discuss why Rose, who is now charged with sexually abusing five additional children, continued as a patrolman and had access to children.
Rose has maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty to related charges.
There is also an ongoing overtime scandal connected to the police evidence warehouse. As of last month, 14 Boston officers had been federally charged in connection with alleged overtime fraud at the warehouse.