The BPD’s other strategy launched within this period — mass arrests of people with guns (up 40 percent from 2004 to 2005, and still climbing) — has clearly done nothing to stop the shootings. That’s probably because those arrests are not getting so-called impact players off the street. Ten cases recently moved to federal court — they were chosen because their defendants are viewed as especially worthy of punishment — show how random these arrests are. One of the ten defendants was approached because undercover officers, driving through Roslindale’s Archdale Housing Project at around 10:30 one night, “saw a group of approximately five men congregated outside and decided to investigate,” according to the government’s probable-cause affidavit. Another man was sitting in a parked car at 8:23 pm, so “officers backed up to further investigate.” Two others were pulled over in a car, allegedly for a defective taillight. None of these men were found to have a single firearm on them; none have extensive criminal records; all are being prosecuted.
This strategy reinforces two beliefs widespread among the young men caught up in the storm. First, the cops are powerless to get the real thugs — that small number of men who at any given moment are willing to point a loaded weapon at another person and pull the trigger (and whose odds of getting arrested for it are currently running about 13 to one in Boston). And second, the cops aren’t here to help you. They are here to boss you, harass you, and get their paycheck.
For their part, the beat cops are understaffed, overworked, and trying to maintain order among trigger-happy hoodlums who have nothing but animosity toward them. It’s only a matter of time before cops start getting shot and shooting people — as has nearly happened several times recently. Earlier this month, an off-duty cop was shot at while trying to apprehend a man firing off rounds on Blue Hill Avenue. Previously, an officer shot a man in the foot after he allegedly pointed a gun at the cop on Blue Hill Avenue; an 18-year-old pointed a loaded .357 at police officers on Hosmer Street in Dorchester; and a 17-year-old was arrested after allegedly pointing a loaded .45 caliber Ruger at a BPD officer. In another incident, when municipal policemen arrested an allegedly abusive and resistant 18-year-old on Glendale Street in Dorchester, according to reports, some 30 people gathered and began shouting obscenities at the officers.
Considering the number of shooting victims, we’ve been lucky that — so far — our murder rate has not approached the level of the late ’80s and early ’90s. As many in law enforcement acknowledge, that has a lot to do with Boston’s world-class weapons-injury emergency services, developed during those crazy days.
About five of every six shooting victims in the city survives — and so far this year, it’s more like eight out of nine. Take Anthony “Studder” Silva, a 28-year-old currently recuperating in a Boston hospital. He had previously been shot at least twice, including an assassination attempt. In January he was set free after being acquitted on his own shooting charges; a week later he was found lying in the street with six bullets in him. In February alone, at least half a dozen people were shot multiple times and lived; two others survived being shot in the head. A 16-year-old was paralyzed but survived a bullet that tore through his spine.