Boston police are putting men with gun records and histories of violence in their sights, hoping it will tamp down the spree of shootings and stabbings that last year led to 72 homicides, a nearly 50 percent increase from 2009, the Boston Globe reports. Police commissioner Edward Davis attributes the rise in homicides mostly to an expanding drug market that, he says, has been fed by the decriminalization of marijuana and the release of convicts with drug records who cannot find work in a poor economy and have turned once again to dealing.
Davis says many of the killings are linked to incidents in which drug dealers stole from other dealers. Some community leaders are skeptical, saying Davis's theory linking drug crimes to last year's homicide rate does not reflect what they are hearing and seeing on the streets. The department's drug unit has been ordered to prioritize violent drug dealers. “What we're doing is we're concentrating on people who are using firearms in their commission of day-to-day activity,'' Davis said. “We're not focusing on nonviolent traffickers as much as we are on a violent trafficker.'' The drug unit is an 88-member force that Davis had previously cut and now is considering expanding. He has already shaken up its leadership structure. The unit has a unique profile. Many of the officers work undercover in jeans and sweatshirts. They rely on a network of street informants – some of their best are scorned girlfriends and others willing to buy drugs as part of a sting operation in exchange for $20 or $30 from the police.