Does Evans have a violence-reduction strategy?

The appointment of Boston’s new police commissioner, William Evans, has generated positive reaction, especially because of his vow to strengthen connections to residents through things like more walking beats in neighborhoods. He has also raised the idea of reviving a “gun buy-back” program that lets people anonymously turn in illegal guns in exchange for store gift cards.

Both are appealing ideas that are likely to be well-received. The one hitch: It’s not clear that walking patrols or gun buy-backs do much of anything to reduce gun violence, the main scourge that everyone agrees should be the top priority of police in Boston, as in most American cities.

Boston made headlines across the country in the mid- and late-1990s when the city’s homicide rate plummeted from more than 140 murders in 1990 to just 31 in 1999.  Some of the drop was probably due to the waning of the national crack epidemic, but the sharpest drop occurred quite suddenly, starting in 1996, when Boston adopted a focused strategy to address gun violence that came to be known as the Ceasefire initiative. The approach was premised on the realization that a very small number of people, most of them affiliated with gangs of one form or another, were responsible for much of the gun violence. From that, police and a set of partners inside and outside law enforcement, devised an approach to dealing with these individuals that involved direct meetings at which all members of a gang were put on notice that any acts of violence connected to them would be dealt with swiftly. They were also told that help was available for those interested in turning their attention to more positive pursuits.  

The Ceasefire strategy has been tweaked and molded in the years since then, and has been adopted by departments across the country. David Kennedy, the criminal justice researcher who was a key part of the Boston effort, writes this week in the Huffington Post that many of the cities that recorded the large drops in murders last year — including Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland, New Orleans, and Stockton, California — have implemented versions of the Ceasefire strategy. He allows that not every city experiencing decreases in murder is using the approach, but he maintains that in those cities where Ceasefire is in place the results “are consistently, tremendously promising.”

Boston has shown an on-again, off-again embrace of the strategy, sometimes driven as much by changes in command staff and internal department politics as by any real reckoning with the effectiveness of the approach or current crime challenges. It will be worth watching Evans’s early moves for signals as to how he views the strategy that made the “Boston Miracle” of the 1990s a national crime-fighting success story.

In remarks following his swearing in last week, Evans said of the walking patrols, “The community loves to see the visibility, and we’re going to make the officers as visible as possible. It builds a sense of trust for them, and we’re going to try to improve that.”

There’s nothing wrong with that. As long as no one mistakes it for a focused strategy to reduce gun violence.

–MICHAEL JONAS    

BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick unveils a $36.4 billion budget proposal, the Associated Press reports. Patrick’s proposal includes a $32 million increase for the troubled Department of Children and Families. Both gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker and Mass. Municipal Association executive director Geoff Beckwith criticize Patrick’s budget proposal.

The Herald reports that more than one-third of DCF’s social workers aren’t licensed by the state.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Somerset is in danger of not being able to pay its bills and needs to borrow $17 million, the Herald News reports.

Cape officials are nonchalant about the recent snowstorm.

GAMBLING

Mohegan Sun and Wynn make their final pitches for a casino in the Greater Boston area, NECN reports. The Globe captures the differing styles and approaches of the two casino operators.

Joan Vennochi finds casino commission chairman Steve Crosby’s claim that he can impartially weigh the Boston casino applications less than convincing.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says the country will hit its debt-ceiling limit next month, earlier than expected, Time reports.

US Rep. Niki Tsongas invites Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera to President Obama’s State of the Union address, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Sen. Ed Markey calls on President Obama to fight fish fraud, South Coast Today reports.

Slate offers lessons from the gold-plated Bob McDonnell scandal.

The Justice Department accuses the federal government’s largest contractor for background checks of filing more than 660,000 fraudulent background reports.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder requests 50,000 special visas for foreign professionals willing to live and work in Detroit. Snyder is also asking state lawmakers to send $350 million in aid to the bankrupt city.

The New York Times holds up a two-year long nonprofit approval process for a right-leaning Los Angeles organization as a test case for the perils and conflicts that come with cracking down on political nonprofits. The future of political nonprofits — which are exempt from both taxes and federal disclosure regulations — figured prominently in a recent CommonWealth conversation on dark money super PACs.

A Times editorial praises a bipartisan report outlining ways to make voting easier.

ELECTIONS

Republican Richard Tisei will announce today that he is planning a second campaign against US Rep. John Tierney, the Globe reports.

Three of every four people who gave to Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera’s campaign were from outside of Lawrence and many were from outside the state, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Joseph Avellone, a Democratic candidate for governor, calls Lowell a model for helping at-risk youth, the Sun reports.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A report from a Boston nonprofit says pursuing innovative strategies to avoid housing evictions would help many families avoid homelessness and save the state millions in shelter costs.

The anonymous author of a Twitter account that dishes Goldman Sachs elevator gossip has signed a book deal.

EDUCATION

A Globe editorial says Boston Mayor Marty Walshis off on the wrong foot in the search for a new school superintendent by signaling that only those with direct background in urban education need apply and by suggesting he might prefer a local candidate.

A teacher’s aide in Fitchburg is placed on paid leave while officials look into her modeling portfolio, which included semi-nude pictures, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

HEALTH CARE

Paul Levy spots an ad in the New York Times magazine that he says should prompt the firing of someone.

A health survey indicates Clinton and Fitchburg have a very high rate of deaths from opiate use, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Berkshire Eagle argues that if you live or work in coastal areas prone to flooding, you should pay higher insurance premiums.

Those who depend on government aid to pay heating fuel bills are feeling the pinch, the Globe reports, as cold  weather and high heating oil prices threaten to leave them in the cold.

The date of the Super Bowl may be moved if a storm is forecast for northern New Jersey next weekend. If so, maybe NFL officials will reconsider the wisdom of holding future games in the snowy northern half of the country in February.

A Herald editorial gleefully embraces the prospect of another Cape Wind lawsuit. But the proposed offshore wind farm wins in another case, as the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of the project is upheld.

The European Union considers lifting binding renewable energy targets.

MEDIA

Chet Curtis , a giant of the golden age of local news during his decades at WCVB-TV, has died at age 75 of pancreatic cancer.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

The Bay State Banner publishes an “Open letter to Banner readers” that refutes points made in a recent Boston Globe article about the loan the paper secured from a local Boston nonprofit to shore up its finances.

Orange County Register owner Aaron Kushner announces layoffs. Does that mean his bid to revive the news business by hiring more reporters is doomed? asks Dan Kennedy.