Creating new solutions to city#039;s crime problems

by Beacon Staff • March 1, 2006

In the early 1990s the city boasted one of the lowest crime rates in the nation and was looked to by leaders of other cities as an example of what works in fighting urban crime.,We may have charm, history and culture, but our beloved Boston has a problem.

In the early 1990s the city boasted one of the lowest crime rates in the nation and was looked to by leaders of other cities as an example of what works in fighting urban crime.

In contrast, 75 people were murdered here last year, the most in 10 years.

So much for progress.

But after spending years trying to target crime with elaborate tactics like last year's "Operation Hydra," which effectively forced drug pushers and prostitutes out of Chinatown and into the Theatre District, Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole said her department is going to start sweating the small stuff.

Instead of banding officers together in larger-scale efforts, the Boston Police Department will be equipping officers with new civil misdemeanor citation books. Think of them as the equivalent of parking tickets for minor violations.

The citations will be served to those in violation of city ordinances commonly viewed as nuisances, such as walking dogs off of leashes, aggressive panhandling and performing on the street without a proper license.

At first glance, targeting these crimes might seem petty or just a way for the city to make money, as some critics have said.

Getting serious about small infractions, however, serves a bigger purpose in fighting the major crime issues that Boston is facing.

Aside from gaining a tighter hold on general order throughout the city, the citations will also allow police officers to take care of smaller problems they might once have overlooked because of burdening amounts of paperwork required before.

Spending less time arresting and processing people for smaller offenses will also allow officers to spend more time on the streets not only looking for more serious crimes, but also creating a presence that will discourage crime before it happens.

When Commissioner O'Toole visited Emerson last week, she listened to student concerns and by her presence, showed her commitment to keeping Emerson students safe.

While this is just a small start to that commitment both here and citywide, it is a solid foundation upon which to build.

Communication is essential to developing trust and the Commissioner's willingness to communicate with the Emerson community shows great promise for the relationship between the two to be productive in the future.