Police plan to target replica guns and the inappropriate use of scooters, mopeds, and off-road vehicles to keep Boston streets safe from violence this summer, city officials said Friday.
Commissioner William B. Evans revealed his plan as Boston approaches the Memorial Day weekend with 11 homicides on record for the year. Two of those deaths occurred before 2015 but were declared homicides this year, Evans said.
At this time last year, there had been 22 homicides, Evans said.
“We’re hoping to keep the summer quiet,” he said. “Our goal is to make this city the safest place it can possibly be.”
He spoke at a City Hall news conference with Mayor Martin J. Walsh and other officials, who detailed programs aimed at keeping youths off the streets and gave tips on staying safe while participating in summer activities such as cookouts, swimming, and other activities.
Police displayed an array of replica guns that had been recently seized or turned in through a city gun-buyback program, and Evans cited the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot last year by an officer in Cleveland as he played with a fake pistol.
“It’s very frustrating for our officers,” he said. “If a young kid thinks it’s a toy ... the worst thing that possibly could happen is one of us thinking it’s real and shoot a young kid. We’re pleading with parents. We’re pleading with the community, store owners not to sell these to the kids.”
He said officers seized about 250 replica guns last year. Last month, Boston police Sergeant Henry Staines accosted a man for videotaping officers surrounding a teenager who was playing with a realistic-looking fake gun on Edgewood Street in Roxbury. Staines later apologized.
At the time, Evans said that Staines acted partly out of frustration over these fake guns, noting that with tension between police and citizens high across the country, Staines was upset at the idea that police could have shot a child playing with a toy.
“They’re a big issue for us,” Evans said Friday. “Nobody wins with these guns that look as real as possible.”
Evans and the Rev. Mark Scott, associate pastor at Azusa Christian Community in Dorchester, also singled out the use of scooters, mopeds, and off-road vehicles on city streets and in parks as a problem.
“They’re dangerous to the rider, drivers, and pedestrians,” Scott said. “Police officers will not chase these vehicles but they can confiscate them when they are illegally stored.”
He urged people to report any illegally stored scooters, mopeds, or off-road vehicles to police.
Evans said police are working with lawmakers, city councilors, and the Registry of Motor Vehicles to craft legislation to create licenses for such vehicles.
Police have also lined up community outreach efforts to combat violence, the commissioner said.
Specialized units, including officers who fight drugs and gang violence, are scheduled to visit the city’s 11 Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston locations, Evans said. Police are also holding junior police academies and a teen police academy. They are hosting movie nights, cookouts, and other outings, he said. On Father’s Day, there will be a march for peace similar to one held every Mother’s Day, Evans said.
The city will also get more help in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan when 41 recruits join the Boston Police Department June 17 and get assignments in those neighborhoods, he said.
“They’ve had some great instruction in the academy,” Evans said. “We’re hoping to keep the summer quiet.”
He said the department’s bike patrol unit will patrol playgrounds and parks this summer and go into high-crime areas when needed.
Walsh said the city is hoping to increase the availability of summer jobs for young people. Last year, he said, Boston provided more than 10,000 such jobs.
The city is also reprising its Operation Exit program, which provides training for at-risk residents in the building trades, Walsh said.
“We believe in second chances, and I think there are a lot of opportunities here in the city of Boston,” Walsh said.
On Ellington Street in Dorchester, where a motorist was shot Thursday afternoon and then crashed into a fence, Sarah Smalls asked whether the efforts announced Friday are enough.
Smalls, 62, said gun violence claimed the lives of her son, Kennieth Smalls, 21, in 1991, and a nephew, Anthony Smalls, in 2010.
“It’s gotten worse,” she said. “Gangs just killing one another. They retaliate.”
Smalls said she worries about retaliation for Thursday’s shooting, and she feels relieved she was not home with her grandchildren when it happened.
“These boys, these teenage boys, these gangs, they’re out to do what they want to do,” she said. “They . . . have no conscience.”