Boston’s Mixed Picture: Murders Down, Robberies Up


Boston’s total of murders, rapes, and attempted rapes dropped dramatically this year, but robberies and aggravated assaults jumped. The Boston Globe says preliminary year-end data showed a 4 percent increase in violent crime.

There was a 35 percent drop in murders, with 41 in 2003, compared with 60 in 2002 and 66 in 2001. Robberies and attempted robberies went up 14 percent, aggravated assaults increased 2 percent, and burglaries went up 15 percent. The figures, reflecting the second lowest crime rate in 32 years, were issued as the city searches for a police commissioner to replace Paul F. Evans, who left for a job in the British government.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the homicide drop probably resulted from police taking more guns off the streets. There was a 14 percent increase this year in seized guns. Criminologist Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University called the 4 percent violent crime rise “a year-to-year fluctuation. “There’s nothing dramatic there.”

Blumstein and James Hussey, the acting police commissioner, said that violent crime statistics are muddled by the inclusion of domestic assaults in aggravated crime statistics. The Police Department said the aggravated assault increase could probably be attributed to a 7 percent rise in domestic violence. Hussey said it was not clear whether there was a rise in domestic violence or more victims coming forward, thanks to citywide outreach efforts.

Blumstein called the homicide decline was “quite an impressive drop,” but he said the 14 percent increase in robberies was “certainly an issue of concern.” Hussey agreed. He said the department was working closely with banks to stem robberies, which he said accounted for much of the increase. In the first three months of 2003, there were 57 bank robberies, compared with 13 the year before.

Hussey said detectives were stepping up efforts to get a handle on a 15 percent increase in burglaries. A small number of people are responsible for a large portion of the break-ins, he said, and a move is underway with the Suffolk district attorney’s office to have them serve more time upon conviction.


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