Boston police are trying to improve community relations and help fight the rising toll of homicides by paying more attention and giving more help to the families of the dead, reports the Boston Globe. Within three days of a killing, the victim’s family gets a package that includes a personal letter from the head of the police department’s homicide unit explaining how investigations work, a poem about grief, a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. about overcoming adversity, a list of contact numbers, and a pamphlet that promises detectives will never stop trying to find the killer. “You can expect 100 percent effort from all homicide detectives. We cannot predict or guarantee results,” the pamphlet says. “We will maintain the case until the end, there is no statute of limitations on homicide cases.”
Boston is one of the few major police departments with trained victim advocates in the homicide unit. In most cities, survivors are assisted by staff from the district attorney’s office, usually much later in the case. The unusual effort is designed to address the pain of grieving families and to improve the police image in the city’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods and get more cooperation from families to help solve cases. Advocates aim to stem angry relatives’ impulse for retaliatory violence by referring survivors to social service agencies where they can find grief counseling and by offering to listen themselves, on occasion calling families for face-to-face talks. The only communication from the homicide unit should not come “in an emergency room [where] we’re shoving a business card at someone,” said Deputy Superintendent Daniel Coleman.