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OPINION

Shots fired: Normalizing crime in Boston

We were asleep but the rapid-fire shooting woke my husband and me. I have no idea why (maybe instinct?), but I immediately started to count them in my head: pop-pop-pop — nine clear gunshots.

Police on the scene of a fatal shooting behind an apartment building on the corner of River Street and Huntington Avenue on Sept. 30, 2015.(Scott Eisen for the Boston Globe)

I’ve often heard people say that the sound of gunfire is unmistakable. At around 5 a.m. on Saturday, I was able to confirm that.

Until then, I had never heard gunshots fired so closely and in real time. It sounded like it was right outside the window of our Hyde Park condo. We were asleep but the rapid-fire shooting woke my husband and me. I have no idea why (maybe instinct?), but I immediately started to count them in my head: pop-pop-pop — nine clear gunshots.

My husband and I went back to sleep, gratefully. Later that morning I did what any Boston resident does when trying to find anything related to criminal or violent activity happening in the city: I checked Stanley Staco’s feed on X. Sure enough, Stacos — Staco’s popular social media account that broadcasts emergency incidents live from the Boston police scanner — had the who, what, and where of the incident, which unfolded at 1409 River St., near Reservation Road.

Luckily no one was hurt, per a press release from the Boston Police Department (unless you count the alleged perpetrator, who according to Stacos — and you can’t make this up — shot himself in the foot). But the casual, low-key violence left us rattled. The incident had me wondering about a certain ambient level of crime that Bostonians, neighborhood by neighborhood, adjust to but that largely goes unreported. It’s treated as part of the “noise” of living in the city. Lately, though, there have been incidents in Hyde Park that have raised the level of fear in the area.

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Later that Saturday morning, near where the shooting took place, police arrested four individuals around Beaver and Cleveland streets, where we walk our dogs every day. They were allegedly attempting to steal cars, according to the Boston police. Last week, there was a shooting reported in Hyde Park’s Fairmount development. And the week before, on the evening after Thanksgiving, a woman was shot in her car on River Street (also two blocks from where we live, toward the Hyde Park MBTA commuter rail station). There was no Boston police press release about that incident but it’s listed in the department’s public journal. Universal Hub, another must-read site for crime and uber-local news in Boston, had brief write-ups about these incidents. But, in general, the little media coverage about these shootings was superficial.

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To be sure, Hyde Park is among the safest Boston neighborhoods. From Jan. 1 to Nov. 26, violent and property crime was down in district E-18, which covers Hyde Park, compared to the same period in 2022. Using the same comparative period, the number of victims in fatal and nonfatal shootings citywide was down nearly 19 percent. And that’s not even comparing Boston to other urban areas in the country.

“I have to keep telling myself, when I write about a string of these horrible little incidents, that we’re not Philadelphia, we’re not Chicago,” Adam Gaffin, who founded Universal Hub in 2005, told me in an interview. But that doesn’t mean they’re not horrifying and intense, especially when they happen around the corner.

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One of the reasons Gaffin tries to write about these violent incidents in the city is because years ago he couldn’t find information about a shooting that happened in Roslindale, he said. “For whatever reasons, Boston police didn’t issue a press release on it so it wasn’t on TV, it wasn’t in the Globe. But this was a major street at rush hour in Roslindale.”

Gaffin also said Hyde Park is generally pretty quiet but that this neighborhood “seems to go through these [crime] waves, like right now.” As police would say, “you draw a circle around the intersection of Seaver Street and Blue Hill Avenue and that’s where most of the violent crime is in the city,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t violent crime elsewhere in Boston. And we should resist normalizing it. We shouldn’t have to rationalize nine shots that were fired around the corner by saying, “at least we weren’t hurt” or “at least we’re not living in Philadelphia” (no offense to Philly, go Eagles!). So how do we process the level of neighborhood violence that is news but that doesn’t make the news?

Part of the answer lies in transparency. “Why was this woman shot in her car on River Street?” Gaffin wondered about the incident after Thanksgiving. “You see 20 cruisers down the street with the lights on and you want to know what happened.”


Marcela García is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at marcela.garcia@globe.com. Follow her @marcela_elisa and on Instagram @marcela_elisa.