This op-ed originally appeared in the Boston Herald on April 15, 2021
This past weekend our city suffered another devastating loss of life at the hands of gun violence. Ms. Delois Brown, a 73-year-old mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend to many in my district, was killed on her front porch early Saturday evening. The family of Ms. Brown, and the community as a whole, deserve justice as well as the resources needed to keep all of our neighborhoods safe.
Reasonable people agree that having a system to root out and prevent misconduct is needed, but calls to “defund the police” and weaken public safety funding is not a winning formula and will cause havoc and more violence in our neighborhoods.
This is especially true now, as crime is on the rise in our city.
In Boston last year, murders increased 54%, fatal shootings increased 60% and non-fatal shootings increased 41% over the previous year. Eighty-five more people were shot in Boston last year than the year before. So while we are seeing signs that we may be turning the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic of gun violence disproportionately impacting communities like those in the First Suffolk District I represent rages on.
Improving standards of professionalism and training, accountability and transparency are important public policy pursuits. But defunding public safety agencies and programs geared towards violence reduction is misguided and not the will of the people, certainly not my constituents.
Now is the time to increase funding for community policing and the important partnerships with our non-profit and faith-based organizations focused on violence prevention, intervention and reduction.
Prioritizing and funding equitable public health services, educational enrichment and economic opportunities as well as public safety agencies and community programs does not have to be a zero-sum game. Thanks to our congressional delegation and partners in the Biden administration, the commonwealth and the city stand to have the resources we need to tackle all of these priorities. It’s time to come together and step up to solve the great challenge of violence in our streets.
Justice for Ms. Brown and her family begins with identifying the individual responsible for her death. So if you saw something, say something. For the community, it means getting the resources they need and deserve to be safe. That means fully funding our public safety agencies and partnership programs. It is why I’ll be supporting increases to grant funding for the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, Shannon Community Safety Initiative, Youth Violence Prevention Grants and the neighborhood-based Gun Violence Prevention Pilot in our FY22 budget.
Boston has a proven and successful model of community policing that includes working in collaboration with interagency, non-profit and faith-based partners. In 2015, the Boston Police Department was recognized by the Obama Administration for “making real progress” through its community policing efforts. We saw it on full display with the Boston Miracle of the 1990s, when violence was at an all-time low. That didn’t happen by accident.
We need a renewed commitment to the “it takes a village” mentality of eradicating gun violence in our communities. Ms. Brown and far too many other innocent victims of gun violence in our city deserve quality public safety. That requires investing in community policing models and programs that work.
Nick Collins is the Massachusetts state senator for the 1st Suffolk District, which includes the neighborhoods of South Boston, Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park.