The broad-daylight shooting of four people in front of a Boston high school on Wednesday put to the test the bonds Boston police have been striving to develop with community members. What they are hoping for: people willing to come forward as witnesses.
“There are plenty of people who know what happened yesterday,” Boston Police Chief Evans said. “Enough with the ‘stop snitching’ stuff. We’ve got a mother who lost her 17-year-old child. Step forward, have some courage and solve this one.”
A high school junior was killed, and two other students and a 67-year-old woman were injured in the shooting that took place in front of Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, a neighborhood in Boston, reported The Boston Globe. Students said they heard six to seven shots fired in what Chief Evans said was not a drive-by shooting, but likely the result of a dispute that started at the school, according to CBS Boston.
Public officials stressed that the whole community had to take responsibility for seeking justice in this case – first and foremost by submitting tips to the police in order to move the investigation forward.
‘It’s amazing how much the investigators rely on information coming from the community,” David Carter, professor at the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview.
“You don’t get that sense from watching television shows about forensics and investigative diligence. In reality, it’s what you get from the community that matters, so there’s got to be trust there to do a homicide investigation,” says Professor Carter, who led a Department of Justice research project into police departments that were most successful in resolving homicide investigations. Nationally, only about 65 percent of homicides in the US are solved.
“If people trust the police, they’ll volunteer information without even being asked. We have the research to prove it,” Carter says.
“It is important, yet it is not enough to ask the community to come forward with leads,” Chaplain Clementina M. Chery, president and chief executive officer of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute tells The Christian Science Monitor in an email. “We also need a shared understanding of what we do as a city and how we take care of all impacted families when a homicide happens.” The Peace Institute provides emotional and practical support to Massachusetts families that have lost loved ones to homicide.
The Boston Police Department has spoken out about the importance of investing in its relationship with the community. In November, the department launched a digital media campaign called Search for Justice to promote a community approach to solving homicides. Each month, the police department releases a video of family members of homicide victims whose murders have never been solved asking their neighbors with information to come forward.
For Ms. Chery, the key to preventing future violence is "a city-wide homicide response protocol that is coordinated, consistent, and compassionate."
"Homicides cause physical, emotional, and financial stress that can have a destabilizing effect on entire communities. Effective and equitable homicide response is an essential component of violence prevention," Chery tells the Monitor in an email. "We are here and ready to work toward this shared goal with all of our partners."