It didn’t take long for Boston’s new police commissioner to toe the “blame the citizenry” line concerning the department’s dismal homicide-arrest rate. A month into his tenure and already faced with his second unsolved murder, that of a 14-year-old boy, Ed Davis gathered the news media and decried the lack of cooperation from potential witnesses, which he called “troubling” and “astonishing.”
We started 2006 much the same way. At a press conference a year ago, then-commissioner Kathleen O’Toole and homicide-unit head Daniel Coleman both blamed the low 2005 arrest rate (29 percent, less than half the national average) squarely on uncooperative witnesses, with Coleman telling those who complain to “look in the mirror.”
Okay, just don’t tell them to step out their front door. As it happens, two months before O’Toole’s January 2006 press conference, someone shot a 19-year-old at the very address — 76 Clarkson Street — where police were rebuffed this week seeking information about the New Year’s Day murder. Six weeks after that press conference, someone shot four people, including two 17-year-olds, on the porch of 60 Clarkson Street. The shooters were never caught.
If Davis thinks berating the citizenry will somehow result in more cooperation, he should be reminded that it didn’t work for O’Toole last year. The homicide-arrest rate for ’06 was 32 percent — for gun homicides, a shameful 20 percent.
All told, about 100 murders and 600 non-fatal shootings in the past two years have resulted in no arrests for the perpetrators. From the point of view of many residents, it’s pretty clear who’s in control of their streets — and it’s not Ed Davis.
This is not a message the BPD hierarchy, or Mayor Tom Menino, has been willing to hear. In fact, when the 2003 biennial city survey revealed a dramatic decline in public confidence in the police force, Menino and O’Toole responded by burying the results, dismissing them when they were revealed (by the Phoenix), and deciding never to conduct the survey again. No word yet from the new commissioner on whether he’d like to revive it.