Boston Violence Down; Some Suburban Rates Up


As violent crime drops in Boston, police in some low-crime suburbs like Lexington and Marlborough are getting more calls for robberies, assaults, rapes, and occasionally murders, finds a Boston Globe comparison of crime statistics from 1980 to 1982 and 2000 to 2002. Violent crime rates increased by nearly half in Pembroke and Barnstable during the two decades, doubled in Stoughton, and tripled in Marblehead.

The burden of violent crime has seesawed from the cities toward the suburbs, the Globe concludes. Ten years ago, two thirds of the people murdered in Massachusetts were killed in Boston. Last year, the number had fallen to just one in three.

With the shift, suburban police chiefs say they are importing some of the same crime-prevention strategies credited with reducing violence in the cities. They are working with neighboring police departments more than ever, banding together to match the resources that cities have to fight crime.

In Concord, mimicking one a cornerstone of Boston’s anticrime strategy, police are working with community and church groups to identify problems before they blossom into crime.

In the relative safety of the suburbs, crime has eased generally. Property crimes, including burglary, larceny, and car theft, fell in nearly every community across the state, according to the Globe analysis. Rates of violent crime — murder, rape, robbery, and assault — dropped by half in places like Braintree, Melrose, and Swampscott, and by two thirds in Newton and Watertown. Violent crime rates, measured by the number of crimes per 100,000 people, were low in Billerica and Canton two decades ago, and they’re even lower now.

Even the specialists don’t know why crime has risen in one suburb and dropped in another. The latest statewide crime report, out last week, shows an overall increase in violent crime for the second straight year, especially in suburbs. Over a decade or more, the recent increases in murder and robbery are small corrections to a long, sharp decline in crime. Since 1993, the state’s violent crime rate has fallen 40 percent.


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