Last year, the Boston Police Department recorded about 250 shootings. But the number of gunshots fired in the city was nearly three times higher, said Greg Henning, a candidate for Suffolk district attorney.
Henning examined the issue when he was chief of the Suffolk district attorney’s office’s gang unit, and on Thursday announced plans to help police investigate all shooting incidents.
“Every shooting has victims,” Henning said. “Even when no one is struck, that violence affects the neighborhood.”
The unsolved shooting unit within the district attorney’s office would consist of three prosecutors, a victim witness advocate, and a crime analyst, Henning said. The unit would investigate whenever a gun is fired in the county, which includes Boston, Revere, Chelsea, and Winthrop.
The idea is to assign prosecutors to work with local police detectives on nonfatal shootings to “move that investigation forward as fast as possible,” Henning said.
Henning, a Suffolk prosecutor for the past decade, is one of six candidates in the race to succeed Daniel F. Conley. Henning, Rachael Rollins, Shannon McAuliffe, Linda Champion, and Evandro Carvalho are running as Democrats, and Mike Maloney is running as an independent. The primary is Sept. 4.
McAuliffe, who has worked as a public defender and head of the social services group
Roca, said the investigations Henning’s plan describes should already have been given high priority, calling the proposal “prosecution 101.”
“I think real leadership would be about recognizing and naming why this basic work hasn’t been done before,” McAuliffe said. “This office has valued different lives differently, and skin color, ZIP code, and income has affected who has gotten what and when.”
In a report last week, The Washington Post found that of major US cities, Boston had the widest discrepancy by race in homicide arrest rates. Since 2007, Boston police have made an arrest in nearly 90 percent of homicides with white victims, and just 42 percent of homicides with black victims, the Post reported.
Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said the vast majority of homicide victims are people of color, many whose deaths are the result of drive-by shootings or gang activity. Those cases are particularly difficult to solve, he said.
The unsolved shooting unit would not investigate past cases, but respond to new incidents, Henning said.
Henning said he believes the office’s current response to homicides is “appropriately thorough,” but that nonfatal shootings receive a “less aggressive” response.
“Typically, if there’s an arrest made in a shooting case, a prosecutor is assigned, and that case gets investigated,” Henning said. “If a person doesn’t get hit with a bullet or if there isn’t an immediate lead, often there isn’t a prosecutor assigned right away.”
Putting prosecutors on those cases can potentially prevent violence, he said.
“If a person is so brazen to use a gun multiple times, that person is a concern and shouldn’t be out on the streets,” Henning said.
Maloney did not comment on Hennings’s plan specifically, but said he looks forward to facing the Democratic nominee after the primary. The remaining candidates could not be reached for comment Thursday.Emily Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.