BOSTON – The number of teen homicides in the city of Boston doubled in 2017 compared to the numbers registered in 2016, according to the Boston Globe.
Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said that while violent crime in the city decreased by 7 percent, the death toll among the city’s youth was alarming.
“We’re seeing kids younger and younger with handguns,” Commissioner Evans said. “They’re shooting at each other, that’s why we have to work harder to keep those kids out of that lifestyle.”
The Suffolk District Attorney’s office says that, as of Friday, there were 58 homicides registered in Boston, compared to a total of 55 last year, including five killings investigated by State Police.
The numbers released by the Suffolk DA’s office include a homicide case handled by the State Police detectives, as they have the authority to investigate deaths in parts of the city that are under the state’s jurisdiction, such as parks and highways.
Nearly all homicide victims in 2017 were killed by gunfire, with fewer than a dozen people dying from stabbing or trauma. Figures show that three out of four victims were identified as black or non-Hispanic black, where nearly all of them were men.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said well over half the cases were gang-related and happened primarily in three neighborhoods in the city; Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan.
Figures show the number of people wounded or killed by gunfire rose to at least 258, compared to 229 last year.
In 2017, Boston is on track to have a murder rate of 8.7 per 100,000 people, compared to the estimated rates of 3.3 per 100,000 in New York City and 6.8 per 100,000 in Los Angeles, according to the Brennan Center.
Commissioner Evans says that getting guns off the streets is a top priority.
Boston officers confiscated nearly 1,000 firearms this year, including replica guns and guns turned over during a buyback program held by the city earlier this month, according to Commissioner Evans.
Evans says one of the biggest reasons for the surge in shooting victims is the ample availability of powerful firearms with the capacity to discharge many rounds of ammunition in a short period of time.
“We’re seeing more powerful weapons out there,” Evans said. “It used to be a revolver. Now they have semiautomatic weapons.”
Starting in January, authorities will have a judicial system devoted exclusively to processing gun offenses in the Suffolk Superior Court after being operated for more than a decade in the Boston Municipal Court.
In Superior Court, penalties for crimes involving the illegal possession and discharge of firearms will be harsher for defendants.
Superior Court judges have the authority to impose a five-year prison sentence on defendants convicted of illegally carrying a firearm, while in District Court, the stiffest punishment is two and a half years.