Finally, a silver lining to this year’s extraordinarily frigid Boston winter: a double-digit crime drop in the first three months of 2013. According to the Boston Globe, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis announced a 15% drop in crime generally from January to March 2013 when compared to the activity the year before. While gun-related crimes did see a spike during this same time, the statistics are being heralded a victory for the city, one Davis credits to a surge in community crime watch groups and criminals just not feeling like getting muddled up in all that snow.
“We’ve certainly had a lot of snow this year, and that keeps people inside,” Davis announced, which, despite skeptical first instincts, makes plenty of sense. The sorts of crimes reported on the decline range from burglary and larceny to vehicle theft and rape—crimes that involve being outside, running, or carrying large burdens. Apparently car thieves didn’t want to bother risking the time it takes to dig a car out of a Boston-sized storm this year. The Globe breaks down the crime drop as follows:
Between Jan. 1 and March 18 this year, there were seven killings, compared with eight in the same period in 2012, according to police department statistics. Rapes and attempted rapes dropped by 25 percent; robbery by 7 percent; aggravated assaults by 16 percent; burglary by 8 percent; larceny by 17 percent; and vehicle theft by 14 percent.
The weather explanation also holds when given the fact that non-fatal shootings are up 20% and firearm-related arrests saw an 11% increase, according to the Globe, assuming the same people who have given up on stealing cars during the winter are attempting to find alternate sources of income. With this in mind, the police department announced plans for a heightened anti-crime initiative as the city begins to thaw, citing the coming summer months as traditionally the most problematic.
Lies from Punxsutawney Phil aside, Boston residents have plenty to applaud themselves for on the tail of this new study. Davis explained the increased gun violence in the Globe as “retaliatory action,” a symptom itself of the greater effort both police and residents in neighborhood watch groups are putting into fighting criminals. More than one hundreds crime watch groups were formed in 2012, almost doubling the amount in the city, and Mayor Thomas Menino noted that police officers were beginning to specialize further in neighborhoods, actively becoming part of the people they police rather than making casual and distant rounds about town. That knowledge is reflected in the drop in crime, he asserted.
Despite the positive news for the city, the drop in crime has sparked criticism from civil rights groups who note the incongruity between said drop and the exponential increase in construction of prisons and inmate population. The research group MassINC released a report last month condemning the tripling of inmate population since 1980. The group also announced their research found Massachusetts to have a higher recidivism rate than several other states, a rate that costs the state $150 million more than taxpayers would otherwise have to contribute to keeping repeat criminals behind bars. That the criticism of the police force is now about having more prisons than criminals to fill them is undeniably a step forward, however, even if in part thank to a season of solid Nor’easters.