Globe Editorial

In Mattapan, a grisly sign of a wider crime problem

September 29, 2010

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THE SCENE of carnage on a Mattapan side street yesterday evoked the systematic atrocities of some war-torn land — a toddler and a woman killed without mercy and three naked male victims sprawled in the street nearby, two dead of gunshots and one just barely alive.

But there is no evil regime at fault here. In this neighborhood, government builds a $17 million state-of-the-art library and breaks ground for a $32 million community health center, all in an effort to promote stability and general well-being. It’s the depraved soldiers of the illegal drug trade who police suspect are behind the multiple homicide.

The streets are jumping — and not in a good way — in Mattapan and other poor neighborhoods of Boston. Longtime residents say it feels like the hyper-violent late 1980s, when gang members without consciences claimed large swaths of territory. The murder rate has increased by 32 percent since January compared with the same period last year. And while many incidents of violence can be tied to drug trafficking and other gang activities, crime is never neatly contained. Some of the recent dead are the very definition of innocent victim. One was a preschooler. Another was a pizza delivery man who adored his children.

Law enforcement has an obligation to seek out the perpetrators of yesterday’s killers, and to mobilize all available resources to keep crime from consuming troubled neighborhoods. Residents of these areas have a corresponding duty to their neighbors — and themselves — to help investigators identify the guilty.

Anger and fear shorten the life of a city. And both are in ample supply right now.

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