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Violent crime was down in Boston in 2018; homicide rate held steady

Boston Police officers and detectives were at the scene of a shooting at 50 Evelyn St. in Mattapan on May 15, 2018.
Boston Police officers and detectives were at the scene of a shooting at 50 Evelyn St. in Mattapan on May 15, 2018.Scott Eisen for The Boston Globe

Violent crime in Boston was down in 2018 compared to the prior year, with the homicide rate essentially holding steady and the total number of fatal and non-fatal shooting victims decreasing by about 22 percent, according to police statistics released Monday.

The numbers from the Boston Police Department show there were 56 murders in 2018, down from 57 in 2017 but more than the five-year average of 48.

Overall, significantly fewer people in the city were shot, with 202 victims of non-fatal and fatal shootings reported in 2018, down from 260 the prior year, according to the statistics. That mirrors a wider downward trend in violent crime, with 4,182 violent offenses logged in 2018, compared to 4,423 in 2017.

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“I think it’s important that we reflect on why the numbers are down,” said Boston police Commissioner William G. Gross in a phone interview. “It’s our policing model. Community policing is directly involved in reducing these stats.”

One community activist said the drop in crime is a positive sign.

When compared to American cities of a similar size, Boston “is doing well” when it comes to public safety, said the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, cofounder of the Boston TenPoint Coalition, an anti-violence group.

Still, more outreach and intervention is needed for the city’s at-risk youth, particularly at the middle school level, he said.

“The city doesn’t have a clear picture at all in terms of what’s going on in the middle schools,” he said.

The dip in crime can also be attributed to socio-economic factors, Rivers said. Boston, he said, is morphing “into a boutique town,” noting the gentrification of some city neighborhoods. “Crime will decline because numbers of the poor will decline,” he said.

The Rev. John Connolly, a Boston police chaplain said the dip in crime is “probably a result of a whole bunch of factors, not the least of which is the cooperation between the police department and awhole lot of groups,”

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“Community policing is starting to pay off in Boston,” said Connolly, who is also a parish priest at St. Theresa of Avila in West Roxbury.

Among the other highlights in the report were a decrease in robberies, with 1,164 reported in 2018, down from 1,382 the year before. A 2018 total of 1,817 burglaries from commercial and residential properties compared favorably to the 2,129 burglary reports generated in 2017.

Reports for a couple types of crimes did increase slightly.

There were 854 reports of domestic aggravated assault in 2018, compared to 804 in 2017, amid a five-year average of 851. And while total larceny numbers were down, the 7,851 reports in 2018 of larceny from property other than a motor vehicle came in higher than the 2017 tally of 7,710 such reports.

Cops also locked up fewer suspects in 2018.

All told, city police made 9,425 arrests, compared to 10,687 in 2017. The five-year average is 12,626.

Gross said Monday that arrests and crime can decrease simultaneously “because of [city] programs and initiatives” designed to help at-risk youth.

“As always, we want to knock down senseless youth violence, knock down the number of homicides,” Gross said, adding that unsolved murders remain a priority for his department. “We don’t say ‘cold cases.’ It’s ‘unsolved,’ and that’s why it’s so important that people can trust us to come forward with information.”

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Danny McDonald of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.