Shooting with impunity

Boston has become one of the safer big cities in the United States.  In 2015, the city’s murder rate reached a 10-year low, with just 39 people killed. That number climbed to 47 homicides last year, but still remained far below the murderous days of the crack epidemic of the early 1990s, when the city regularly recorded more than 100 homicides per year. Nonfatal shootings in Boston were down slightly last year, with 192 victims compared with 204 in 2015.

Against that backdrop, one might expect that some of the explanation would be the city police department’s reputation for delivering swift justice to those responsible for gun mayhem in the streets. But in an eye-opening investigative article in the current issue of Boston magazine, David Bernstein reports that the department’s record when it comes to solving shootings is anything but stellar.

Over a close to three-year period starting in January 2014 and ending in late September 2016, there were 994 shootings in the city.  Of those shootings, Boston police made arrests in fewer than 4 percent of nonfatal shootings, Bernstein reports.

It’s a stunning finding, and one that leads Bernstein to this very uncomfortable conclusion:  “Boston police almost never arrest anyone for non-fatal shootings.”

It should be an alarming headline that prompts an all-out demand for answers and change. Yet there has been little hue and cry from public officials about the issue, which is overwhelmingly concentrated in the city’s minority neighborhoods.

The track record when it came to fatal shootings is better, but hardly something to brag about, with arrests made in 15 percent of such cases over the same period. Because the vast majority of shooting victims survive, the story said, the overall arrest rate for all shootings during the period examined was still under 6 percent.

In December, the Boston Globe reported on an analysis showing that Boston’s clearance rate for homicides had increased by 10 percentage points, going from 47 percent during the period between 2007 and 2011 to 57 percent in the period between 2012 and 2014.

The Boston magazine story says the disparity between the 15 percent arrest rate for fatal shootings and the higher rate for homicides overall “is likely due to solving a high rate of non-shooting homicides, as well as the BPD’s practice of applying clearances of older cases to the rate for the year the arrest is actually made.”

Boston reports that police and prosecutors offer the now-familiar explanations for the extraordinarily low arrest rate for nonfatal shootings: It’s hard to gather forensic evidence in shootings that usually occur outdoors and witnesses are extremely reluctant to provide information that would help solve the cases.

With headlines often focused on murder rates, Bernstein points out that nonfatal shootings get far less attention. Yet he says the best national estimate that can be gleaned from data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is that nonfatal shootings in the US have increased 29 percent over the last 15 years, a troubling rise that has been largely overshadowed by overall reductions in crime, including shooting deaths.

Data on nonfatal shootings and arrests rates for them are not as uniformly collected as are figures on fatal shootings. Bernstein writes that the only other major US city he could identify with an arrest rate for nonfatal shootings in the single digits was Chicago — not a place Boston should want to be in company with, given the surge in fatal and nonfatal shootings being experienced there. He says other cities, meanwhile, recorded significantly higher arrest rates for nonfatal shootings: Milwaukee, 30 percent; Denver, 29 percent; Baltimore, 36 percent.

Bernstein says “unsolved shootings are a solvable problem.” He cites efforts in New Jersey police departments following a 2012 newspaper expose of low clearance rates. A number of cities there have created centralized investigative teams focused on nonfatal shootings, with clearance rates in some cities now in the 40 to 50 percent rage.

The lack of trust of police among those in Boston minority neighborhoods where shootings are concentrated undoubtedly plays an important role in the difficulty solving shooting cases. But it’s not clear that such tension is so much greater here than in other US cities.

Bernstein reports that Boston police officials have been aware of the stunningly low arrest rate for nonfatal shootings and in 2011 decided to commission a study to examine the problem. He says the first planning meeting for the study, however, did not occur until November of last year — five years after the department agreed to examine the problem and several months after he started asking about the status of the research.

While there is plenty of talk these days about terrorist threats from those entering the country, that threat is a daily reality for residents in areas of Boston where gang members and others can fire guns with impunity.

It may not lend itself to a simple fix. But it’s an issue that should be put front and center in this year’s mayor’s race, something that deserves a lot more attention in our public discourse than squabbles over helipads or how long residents can save parking spaces after snowstorms.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Get the lowdown on how the pay raise will affect the Senate. The average pay is going up 39 percent to $110,000 a year, and some senators are getting far more. (CommonWealth)

Pro-pot Sen. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville is named the Senate chair of the Legislature’s new marijuana committee and pot opponent Sen. Jason Lewis is relegated to vice chair. (State House News)

House Speaker Robert DeLeo says there won’t be any increases in broad-based taxes in the soon-to-come House budget. (MassLive)

It’s a wrap: Though his administration continues to think it’s bad fiscal policy, Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget proposal doesn’t attempt to pare back the state’s film tax credit after making failed efforts in his two previous budget plans. (Boston Herald)

At a State House ceremony in honor of the 100th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s birthday, Baker recalls the impact of the president’s assassination on his family and wonders what the late president would think about “our current state of affairs.” (CommonWealth)

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center says the Trump administration could have a big impact on the Bay State, where a quarter of the state budget is made up of federal funds. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt is offering tax breaks to those who develop market-rate housing. (Salem News)

The lawyer for two Fall River Housing Authority managers suspended last month after complaints of harassing other workers said his clients were being punished for cooperating in an alleged FBI probe of corruption at the agency. (Herald News)

The Herald finds a 76-year-old woman in South Boston who got hit with a fine for not shoveling her sidewalk.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Chaos is the defining feature of the first four weeks of the Trump administration, writes the Globe’s Matt Viser.

Fast food mogul Andrew Puzder withdrew his name as labor secretary nominee a day before his confirmation hearing as it became apparent he would not have enough votes to win the post after reports of his alleged abuse of his ex-wife surfaced. (U.S. News & World Report)

President Trump is reportedly set to appoint one of his supporters, Stephen Feinberg, cofounder of Cerberus Capital Management, to head a review of the country’s intelligence services, a move that has alarmed those in the intelligence community. (New York Times)

Keller@Large says what’s happening in Washington is not a crisis as the average American would define it, it’s more like “business as usual.”

Attorney General Maura Healey ripped Trump’s claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire, calling the charge “pathetic.” (Boston Globe)

Eric Fehrnstrom says Trump will ultimately be vindicated when it comes to his anti-terror immigration ban, while Democrats fighting it are “courting political trouble.” (Boston Globe)

US Rep. Seth Moulton calls for an independent investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin. (Gloucester Times) A Herald editorial decries Trump’s outrage over leaks and his silence over the substance of the information coming out about dealings between his operation and Russia.

Gov. Charlie Baker, facing immense pressure to attack Trump harder, says his goal is to find common ground. (Lowell Sun)

ELECTIONS

South Boston district City Councilor Bill Linehan says he won’t seek reelection this fall, setting up a rare open race for a Boston council seat. (Boston Globe)

Donald Trump is proving inspirational — but not in a way he intends — as women in Massachusetts are showing a surge of interest in running for office in alarmed reaction to his election. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Broad Institute wins a major patent dispute with the University of California Berkeley over an extremely valuable gene-editing tool. (NPR)

Developer Jeff Goldstein proposes a major pot-growing facility in a former Lucent Technologies manufacturing plant in North Andover. (Eagle-Tribune)

Cape businesses are worried there will be a shortage of seasonal employees this summer as a result of Congress eliminating an exemption for returning workers under the H-2B visa program, forcing them to undergo the slow and lengthy process all over again. (Cape Cod Times)

Yahoo and Verizon are reportedly close to a reconfigured agreement for the telecom giant to buy the tech company after widespread data breaches at Yahoo threatened to scuttle the original $4.8 billion deal. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

The Stoughton school superintendent defended her actions in punishing three teachers in an incident where they confronted incidents of swastikas in the high school, which prompted the parents of one student involved  complained their son was being bullied by the teachers. (The Enterprise)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Globe explains how practitioners from the Burlington-based Lahey Clinic came to treat patients in Bermuda, which is now suing the hospital alleging it bribed a former government leader there — charges that Lahey says are unfounded.

The largest study of children’s brain scans ever performed finds those with ADHD have regions of their brains that are smaller than normal. (Associated Press)

TRANSPORTATION

It’s not even spring yet and potholes are sprouting up all over New Bedford streets, causing problems for drivers and their cars. (Standard-Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Recent storms have taken a harsh toll on Cape beaches, eroding the beaches by washing away sand and destabilizing dunes while cutting off access points. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS

Revenue at Plainridge Park Casino fell last month to its lowest level since December 2015. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A father is still looking for answers 13 years after his daughter’s mysterious disappearance from a roadside in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

Matt Kiser is doing his own Daily Download on President Trump, and it’s called What the Fuck Just Happened Today? He currently has 48,000 subscribers and an open rate of 50 percent. (Poynter)

Joan Vennochi says last weekend’s Saturday Night Live sendup of presidential aide Kellyanne Conway was “creepy and sexist,” even if Conway is a serial liar for whom it’s hard to have any sympathy. (Boston Globe)

A Sandwich woman is suing shock jock Howard Stern for airing her 45-minute conversation with an IRS agent over her tax refund that somehow Stern’s producers were able to intercept when the agent called the show and was put on hold. (Cape Cod Times)

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Does anyone know how to look up which employers participate in the H-2B visa program or the H-1B visa program?