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Police Commissioner Cox on Southie St. Patrick’s Day festivities: BPD is ‘prepared for almost anything’

Mayor Michelle Wu and Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox spoke about their safety plans for St. Patrick's Day festivities at Boston Police Headquarters on Monday.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Boston police are ready for this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities, which can draw hundreds of thousands of revelers to the city’s streets, officials told the public at a Monday afternoon news conference at Boston Police Headquarters.

The annual South Boston parade is slated for Sunday, and Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said Monday that the city’s force “is prepared for almost anything.”

The parade is the focal point of one of the city’s largest annual celebrations. It has drawn more than a million spectators in years past, and it can be a raucous and booze-fueled affair as the masses cram Southie’s streets and sidewalks, house parties, and barrooms.


But on Monday, Cox emphasized that the parade is a “family-friendly event.”

“We want to make sure it stays that way,” he said.

Public drinking around the parade, he said, will not be tolerated. He implored the public to remain vigilant of drink spiking, which has reportedly been on the rise in Boston in recent months. Package and liquor stores in South Boston will close at 4 p.m. on Sunday, while last call for bars in the neighborhood will take place at 7 p.m.

At last year’s parade, members of the white supremacist group Nationalist Social Club donned neo-Nazi insignias and marred the festivities by unfurling a banner that read “Keep Boston Irish.”

At Monday’s news conference, Cox was asked about the presence of that group at last year’s parade and how Boston police would respond if such a group showed up again.

“Anyone who comes into the city who wants to do harm or interrupt our daily lives, they are on our radar and we will address it appropriately,” he said.

Despite the outcry over the growing visibility of right-wing extremists in the Northeast, police have limited options for charging them criminally. On the few occasions they have brought charges locally in recent years, it’s typically been for minor offenses.


The challenge, say legal scholars, is simple, albeit maddening for those who want a more muscular response against groups that openly preach hate against people of color, Jews, gay people, and others. The First Amendment casts a wide legal net, they point out, protecting offensive speech from law enforcement.

On Monday, Cox acknowledged, “The reality is as long as they don’t violate laws as long as they don’t impede on someone’s constitutional rights and things of that nature, there’s not much we can do.”

But he added, “I will say this: If they come here and they’re certainly making themselves well known who they are and they’re doing stuff that’s making people feel uncomfortable, we will have zero tolerance for them violating any law.”

At the same event, David Carabin, director of the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, commonly referred to as BRIC, announced that overall violent and property crime in Boston continues to trend downward.

Violent and property crime dipped by 2 percent altogether in Boston last year compared with 2021, according to Boston Police statistics. And Carabin said Monday that such stats, known as “Part 1 crime,” had dropped 8 percent more so far this year, although shootings are up.

Violent crime overall had decreased by 9 percent, or 54 fewer incidents than last year, and is under the 5-year-average. Reported rapes have declined by a third in the city this year, he said, while non-domestic aggravated assaults decreased by a quarter, and burglaries and car break-ins also decreased significantly.


Homicide and robberies, he said, have increased this year. Both are slightly above the five-year-averages. So far, there have been 10 homicides in the city this year and 151 robberies. Shootings are also up. There have been nine more shooting victims this year compared with the same time frame last year.

“Clearly crime is down in most categories, however, homicides and shootings are up, that is something we are certainly working to address,” said Cox.

Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.