Boston’s Rise In Shootings–Aberration Or Trend?

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A teenager walking from his grandmother’s house in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood was wounded within an hour after several cars on nearby Holiday Street were riddled with bullets early in May. The Boston Globe says the teen was hit while police were nearby, investigating the first shooting. Since then, police have returned to the area again and again because of shootings.

Violent crime citywide is down, but Boston officials acknowledged an increase in recent weeks. A number of variables may also have contributed. A surge in the mercury after weeks of rain, a lagging economy, and state budget cuts may all be culprits in this crime wave, experts suggest.

Research shows a close relationship between the economy and crime rates, says historian David Hackett Fischer of Brandeis University. “Violence rates correlate so closely with price movements that they almost appear to be statistical shadows,” he said. “When people are squeezed, crime rates increase.” An ailing economy, with its high unemployment rates and stagnant growth, interacts with crime rates in a number of ways, he said, burdening cash-strapped families with emotional hardship and physical want.

Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University said more budget cuts do not bode well for the city’s safety. Fox cited government spending on after-school and summer programs as an effective tool in fighting crime. In addition, violent crime often spikes in the summer, as oppressive heat and increased outdoor activity inflame tensions. Nearly 20 percent of the 480,000 homicides in the United States from 1976 to 2001 occurred in July and August, Fox said. He pointed out that the week of Boston bloodletting may be more an aberration than a trend.


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