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Boston officials say they’re targeting individuals who are ‘driving’ violent crime

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Boston police will soon act on "40 to 50" arrest warrants for individuals who allegedly committed violent crimes: "They know very well who they are."

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins speaks during a press conference on April 20. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Boston authorities say they’re addressing violence in the city head-on this summer, particularly through a focused, proactive approach on apprehending individuals they say are responsible for violent crime.

As city officials detailed public safety plans ahead of a much-anticipated summer season Wednesday, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins told reporters her office recently approved arrest warrants for “approximately 40 to 50 individuals that are driving some of the violence in our most impacted communities.”

“We have arrest warrants for 40 to 50 people that we believe have been driving the crime,” Rollins said in response to a follow-up question. “So now [comes] the hard work. We’ve got the easy part. The Boston police now are going to be going out and finding all of those individuals. They know very well who they are. So we expect to have several arraignments coming up in the near future.”

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Rollins, acting Mayor Kim Janey, and Boston police Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory Long scoped out the city’s plans for curbing and handling violence Wednesday as the region welcomes the unofficial start to the summer over the coming holiday weekend.

Amid the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Boston saw a rise in gun violence, particularly last summer, with a 29 percent jump recorded by August compared to the same timeframe the previous year.

In 2020, the city experienced a double-digit rise in homicides to 57 in total, up from 2019’s total of 37 — a 20-year low, although an outlier.

But officials Wednesday sought to dispense their multi-pronged approach to tackling any violence Boston may see in the warmer weather.

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Janey unveiled a five-part plan that focuses on everything from expanding youth employment opportunities and community events to cooling gang “hot spots with direct intervention from BPD.”

According to Janey, “part one crimes” — which include violations such as homicide, rape and attempted rape, assault, domestic assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft — are down 21 percent this year compared to the same time last year.

Meanwhile, firearm-related arrests are up 30 percent and violent crimes, on the whole, are down 19 percent — figures that illustrate the department’s tailored approach of targeting specific individuals is paying off, Long said.

“We’re focusing in on individuals with intelligence, and we’re holding them accountable,” he said. “I just want to make that clear — that approach does work, and we’ve seen that in the numbers.”

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Rollins said the process includes prosecutors and Boston and Massachusetts State police actively reviewing trends in data.

“We are looking at when people are returning home from [an] … incarcerated period, whether there are going to be additional problems in the community when they return home, and we are trying to disrupt that violence,” she said.

Prosecutors are also expediting cases with defendants charged with gun-related and violent crimes.

“As a result of the hard police work, we’ve determined who these individuals are, so that’s the work done, and we’re hopefully going to be arresting them shortly,” Rollins said.

Janey also highlighted components of her “summer safety plan,” with a particular goal of preventing violence. Areas of the plan include:

  • Scaling up youth engagement activities: Janey says the city will expand activities and employment opportunities for teen residents, such as the Boston Centers for Youth and Families’ “SuperTeens” program, a “pre-employment education initiative” for 13- and 14 year-olds who have aged out of summer camp programs.

    “We will grow youth services offered by SOAR Boston to connect with harder-to-reach young adults,” Janey said. “Our youth jobs will expand to 4,000 slots, and we will provide mentoring and engage with youth who are at-risk for gang recruitment.”

    Janey is also proposing to make general membership at BCYF centers free this year under her proposed budget.
  • Cooling gang ‘hot spots:’ Janey said Boston police’s “Youth Violence Strike Force” and the drug unit will lead an effort to “curb incidents of violence among vulnerable youth in areas of our city, most susceptible to violence.”
  • Connect neighborhoods to resources for responding to and recovering from violence: Boston Public Schools will use summer learning programs “to build trusting relationships between students and adults to support the overall well-being of our young people,” Janey said.

    Police will also connect social workers with vulnerable children, teens, and families and will coordinate responses to residents facing homelessness, addiction, and mental health disorders, she said.

    According to Janey, the Boston Housing Authority will work with adolescents at the Mildred C. Hailey Youth Drop-In Center to improve lighting in the hallways of its buildings “and mitigate potential incidents.”

    “(The Boston Public Health Commission’s) Neighborhood Trauma Team Network will continue to respond to incidents of violence,” Janey said. “Their work will also include community outreach and engagement and promotion of their support line.”
  • Expanding outreach and engagement for ‘specific groups of residents’: Highlighting this aspect of the plan, Janey pointed to the state’s Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, which she said will provide “outreach and direct services to young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, who have been identified by law enforcement as most susceptible to firearm violence.”

    “The Office of Public Safety will also convene ‘Operation Exit,’ which offers training and employment opportunities to gang-involved individuals through the building trades unions,” she said.
  • Promoting ‘positive activities’ and community engagement in public spaces: Recreational activities will be offered at 16 public parks in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan through the Office of Public Safety, according to Janey.

    The acting mayor said she would also put $12,000 towards community events, and will provide grants of $500 to support events hosted by community groups.

    “The Boston Housing Authority will hold unity days at family sites between August and October, and the Boston Police Department will also host activities and events throughout our city this summer,” Janey said.

Janey said officials are striving to make summer 2021 a “season of safety and healing” following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Working together we will identify and address the root causes of violence, create pathways to opportunities for our youth, and strengthen relationships,” she said. “This summer we will promote peace and healing in our communities.”

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