The carnage of the past week and a half has made a gruesome mockery of the Boston Police Department. The BPD wrapped up its latest “Operation Home Safe” deployment on Sunday, April 30. During the next nine days, at least 20 people were shot in Boston, four fatally; another was fatally stabbed; another was apparently beaten to death; and one was strangled, dumped in a park, and set on fire. One of the murders, of Alex Mendes, happened right in the Uphams Corner neighborhood that just the previous weekend the BPD and other city agencies had blanketed for 48 hours.
Since the start of the year, 137 people have been shot in Boston, both fatally and not. This surpasses the tally for all of 1997 and is not far from the 177 shot in all of 2003.
That was the year before Kathleen O’Toole took over. In her brief 27 months as commissioner, 149 people have been murdered in Boston in 26 months. Arrests have been made in 44 of those cases, for a 30 percent arrest rate.
Now it seems Boston’s bloody roads are rising to meet her.
O’Toole is on her way to Ireland, where she will take over the 12,000-strong Garda Síochána, four times the size of her current force. The Garda investigated just 37 murders in 2004, the most recent data available. That’s a rate of roughly 1 per 100,000 residents. Boston’s rate last year was around 14 per 100,000.
The person most likely to take over for O’Toole, at least for the short term, is Robert Dunford, currently superintendent in charge of field services. At the start of April, Dunford told the Boston Herald that gun violence is “on the decline.” In the seven weeks since then, the city has tallied 12 murders and more than 40 non-fatal shooting victims.
If O’Toole does flee across the Atlantic, that would be two in a row: O’Toole’s predecessor, Paul Evans, took a job in Scotland Yard two and a half years ago. Evans slipped back into town two weeks ago, to testify in former captain William Broderick’s lawsuit against Evans and the department. Evans — who calls his job in England “splendid” — says he was not invited to meet with any city officials while in town.
He did offer the Phoenix his two cents’ worth on the rise in gun violence, although he resisted gloating over Boston’s descent into criminal madness since his departure. “I applaud that they are taking a lot of the guns off the street,” Evans said, adding, “A lot of people have put too much emphasis on one program. The idea that there is one panacea is wishful thinking.”