Officials focus on violence prevention at public hearing
City leaders praised the implementation of violence prevention programs and strategies that have reduced crime in the city, but said that the city and state needs to do a better job of helping “emotionally disturbed individuals.”
Thursday’s hearing of the City Council’s Post Audit and Oversight committee included updates on various areas related to violence prevention including domestic violence, reentry efforts for prisoners, youth employment and gang activity in schools.
Police Commissioner Ed Davis, one of the city officials to offer testimony during the hearing, said that over the last five to six years, the most violent crimes have declined as well as the number of arrests.
“The fact we’re decreasing arrests at same time we are decreasing crime is a testament to a strategy that is fair and works,” Davis said. Part of the strategy he pointed to is the police department’s Safe Street teams, a form of community policing that takes officers out of their cruisers and on walking or other beats. He said he plans to add two additional teams next year, brining the total to 15.
Both Davis and Barbara Ferrer, the city’s public health director, said that one area that can be improved is the handling of those with mental health issues.
“Given the number of folks that are arrested that have underlying mental health or substance abuse issues, we don’t have an adequate number of appropriate options,” Ferrer said.
Davis said other states do a better job at handling the issue than Massachusetts and that more resources are needed.