An August 2004 homicide in Lawrence, Ma., was the fourth of the year in a working-class city whose poverty rivals that in some of Boston’s roughest neighborhoods, says the Boston Globe. Since then, Lawrence hasn’t recorded a single homicide. Last year was the first since 1972 that the city went without a homicide. During the same period, Boston has seen its homicide total soar to its highest level in a decade.
In trying to explain the trend, Lawrence officials point to a strategy used in big cities nationwide: aggressive community policing, which they say is particularly effective in compact cities such as Lawrence. At a time when Boston has seen a reluctance by some witnesses to cooperate with authorities, Lawrence has seen an rise in such cooperation, partially prompted by the high-profile shooting of a high school basketball star and the death of a woman in an out-of-control auto insurance fraud scheme. Another factor: ”A lot of luck,” acknowledges Police Chief John J. Romero. Crime-fighting tools that have worked in Lawrence have included online warrants and photos accompanying restraining orders, said April Pattavina, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Romero, a Bronx native, has focused on gaining community support. ”I go to all the community meetings in the city,” Romero said. ”My officers go as well. I think that trust is there. People see us, and they see that there are results.”