Boston Globe — Crime is down overall in Boston, but activists say the work must go on

By Ivy Scott and Travis Andersen

January 4, 2023

… Overall, crime in Boston is trending down compared to the five-year average, even as crime in other major US cities creeps upward. Still, community advocates stressed the importance of staying committed to violence prevention in the coming year….

While youth violence remains a concern, data on most crimes seem to have reached a plateau, though it’s too early to spot any clear trends. Academics noted that stable crime rates aren’t unusual after a period of decline, and cautioned that yearly numbers rarely point directly to the success or failure of city initiatives.

“Crime is a social phenomenon caused by a very complicated mix of things that affect communities … and the number you get at the end of the year is just the combined result of all those factors,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research & Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “So I would not rush to interpret the meaning of a sudden plateau or even trough after a long period of decline.”

Butts explained that generally the US experiences more violent crime than other countries due to “a combination of stressful social conditions and an ample supply of sophisticated firearms,” and said that because young males are most often the perpetrators of violence, any city where communities of young men face adverse social conditions is likely to experience violent crime.

“If you are in a neighborhood where young men have a hard time seeing a future for themselves or seeing security for themselves, they’re more likely to think they need to protect themselves and have a gun in their pocket,” he said. According to Butts, research indicates that successful violence reduction initiatives focus roughly three-quarters of a city’s effort on “primary prevention” and the remaining quarter on apprehending and responding to perpetrators.

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Boston Police Headquarters in Roxbury.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF