Boston’s Growing Homicide Rate Mirrors Last Decade’s Pace

Boston’s Growing Homicide Rate Mirrors Last Decade’s Pace

Although the homicide rate in Boston, Mass., has increased sharply in the past 19 months, a review found that the rate is just slightly above the annual average of 63 murders for the last decade, the Boston Globe reported Aug. 18.

In 1999, Boston had 31 homicides, the lowest total for the city in more than half a century. “I don’t know if it will ever be that low again,” said Police Commissioner Paul Evans. “That set almost an unrealistic mark. It’s almost as if we’re a victim of our own success.”

The city recorded 39 homicides in 2000 and 66 in 2001. This year’s pace is similar to 2001’s.

But when compared to the homicide rates from 1982 to 1991, the increased rates over the past two years are not as dramatic. For instance, from 1982 to 1991, there was an average of 99 murders a year. The totals in 2001 and thus far in 2002 are less than in any year between 1967 and 1995.

Yet the current increase in homicides has Boston residents concerned that the city is returning to past days of gangs and drugs, daylight gunfights and nighttime drive-by shootings.

James Fox, a professor at Northeastern University and a leading analyst of trends in criminology, attributed Boston’s rise in homicides to demographics. According to Fox, the city has seen a rise in the number of young men on the streets who are most likely to kill or be killed.

“Used to be, we had kids who saw what happened to their brothers, saw their brothers get shot, saw them put in jail for life and they said, ‘Yo, I ain’t going out like that.’ But now you have kids who think this is the movies, and you get shot and you just get up and start all over,” said Rev. Eugene Rivers, who hit the streets in the early 1990s to help curb youth violence. “We’ve got to get to those kids before the street gets them.”

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