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Pamela Esposito held a journal yesterday used to track police presence in her St. Botolph Street neighborhood. She said crime is on the verge of driving her and her husband out of the city.
Pamela Esposito held a journal yesterday used to track police presence in her St. Botolph Street neighborhood. She said crime is on the verge of driving her and her husband out of the city. (Wendy Maeda/ Globe Staff)

Shootings in Hub rise dramatically

City, US form partnership to investigate gun crimes

The number of shootings in Boston has increased significantly over the last three years, jumping by 77 percent through last week, compared to the same period in 2002, and by 28 percent over the same period a year ago.

Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and the South End and Back Bay neighborhoods were among the areas with the biggest increases, according to Police Department figures obtained by the Globe through a public records request. There were 279 fatal and nonfatal shootings citywide this year through Oct. 23, compared to 218 in the same period last year and 158 in 2002.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday he believes that the city can do a better job of reducing gun violence in neighborhoods, which has emerged as a major issue in Tuesday's city election.

''Guns don't belong on the streets of our city or any city," he said. ''Boston is one of the safest cities in the country, but we can make it safer."

Yesterday, Menino, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole, and US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan gathered at police headquarters to announce a new partnership with the federal government to investigate gun crimes. Ten federal agents will work inside the headquarters to support Boston police so guns can be traced more quickly, so suspects can be interviewed more quickly and comprehensively, and so more gun trafficking investigations can be launched.

The number of firearm-related arrests in Boston is up 37 percent this year over last, to 632 through the end of last month, and the number of recovered guns is up 12 percent this year to 727, police said.

Some community leaders said that more needs to be done. They expressed anger at what they see as crime spiraling out of control, especially that involving firearms, in part because not enough police officers are on the streets.

O'Toole said this week that she needs 200 to 300 more officers on the street to beef up the patrol force of about 1,300 and to deal with the growing number of shootings and homicides.

By yesterday, there had been 58 homicides this year, compared with 56 at the same time last year. The department says that 35 of this year's homicides were shootings, down from 44 at this time last year.

Jorge Martinez -- executive director of Project RIGHT, a Grove Hall community safety group -- said that he believes that the rise in shootings in Roxbury, from 54 last year to 81 this year, is the result not only of an increase in guns but also a trend among younger teenagers who are arming themselves for protection.

''It scares the bejesus out of me," Martinez said.

Emmett Folgert, director of the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, said he has noticed that the teenagers he works with are more afraid to walk the streets alone.

In the Back Bay-South End police district, where the number of shootings more than doubled, from 11 in 2002 to 24 this year, Pamela Esposito said she and her husband are close to being driven out of the city because of crime.

Esposito said she called police on Monday night after hearing a fusillade of about eight gunshots from her apartment on St. Botolph Street, where she has lived for four years. She said she and her neighbors are alarmed by the lack of officers visible in the neighborhood and feel compelled to protect themselves.

''We're talking about doing things even more drastic at this point, like getting our own security," said Esposito, a 31-year-old scientist. ''It's not a good feeling to have to look over your shoulder at 6 at night."

Barry Mullen, a 47-year-old community organizer who lives on St. Mark's Road in Dorchester, said 13 crime watch groups have been started, revived, or strengthened by worried residents in the so-called Florida Street corridor in recent months.

He said he was particularly worried by two shootings during loud parties at a nearby home in the past five months. In both cases, he said, neighbors called the police before shots were fired, but their calls were ignored.

Sergeant Thomas Sexton, a Police Department spokesman, responded last night that calls on loud parties and other quality-of-life issues will be answered after more serious emergencies, such as shootings.

''The Boston Police Department takes each and every 911 call seriously," he said. ''The department does prioritize 911 calls and responds to the most serious calls requiring an immediate police response first to ensure public safety."

Police Superintendent Robert Dunford has said he is trying to improve response time, but that the department's resources are being spread thin because they are receiving more 911 calls.

Councilor John Tobin -- who represents Jamaica Plain, where shootings this year have jumped from 10 in 2002 to 27 through last week -- said he believes that the shortage of detectives is partially to blame for the jump.

''Any time there's a shooting in a neighborhood, whether there's one or a few, that's unsettling and unnerving to folks," he said.

The police commissioner said that investigating gun crimes is far more labor-intensive now, because more guns are being recycled, and that federal reinforcements will make a big difference. The new firearms investigations center, O'Toole said, is an example of the department's innovative approach to handling staff reductions.

''We're constantly looking for creative ways to do more with less," she said.

Suzanne Smalley can be reached at

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