The 20 Year Homicide Report was conducted by Darrin Howell while serving as Constituent Services Director for then District 7 City Councilor, Chuck Turner. Completed in 2009, the report was digitized / visualized by Jacob Leidolf for the Blackstonian in 2011. This current version was redesigned in January 2017.
This study evolved out of a commitment I made ten years ago to use at least one full time position on my staff to provide a growth opportunity for a young person from the community. The first was Felix Arroyo, Jr. who while turning twenty when I hired him came with an extensive background in politics given his father’s and mother’s political passion. Hopefully, Felix will join the Council next year as an at-large City Councilor. The second was Calvin Feliciano who although also twenty when hired had been mentored by Optimist (member of the Foundation) at Teen Empowerment and was making the transition from life in the streets to community service. Calvin after a two year experience with my office, took a better paying job with Councilor Felix Arroyo, and now is an organizer for SEIU 1199.
The third, Darrin Howell, who was twenty-five when hired, had an extensive administrative work history in hospitals as well as a period of incarceration. However, Darrin had no history of community service or organizing to provide a transition from an active life in the streets to serving the community as constituent service director for my office. Darrin’s work history assured me that he could handle the work responsibilities. Yet, it seemed necessary to develop a transitional experience to help him move from being actively involved in street life to developing the objectivity necessary to be an agent of change. The recognition of this need led to my asking him to organize a study on the history of homicides in this city over the last twenty years. My expectation was that the experience of thinking through what data was needed, how to organize it, and what the information said to him about the issue of violence in the community would mentally prepare him for the kinds of challenges that work in our office would bring.
Initially conceived as a mental exercise for Darrin, I also viewed the development of the study as a tool to enable my office as well as others to see more clearly the trends and patterns over the twenty year period in order to strengthen our ability to develop data driven strategies designed to counteract the dynamics that lead to violence and homicides in the community. On a very concrete level the study has led to a sharpening of my office’s focus on youth homicides (14-25) given the fact that nearly 50% of all homicide victims over the last twenty five years have been in that age category. With the addition of information on convictions at the end of last year and beginning of this year, it seemed that it was time to release the study to the general public. However, given its value as a tool of analysis and strategic thinking, it seemed that our office needed to take responsibility for shaping a process that would enable residents of our community to use the data to strengthen their understanding of what actions we as a community and the police needed to take in order to strengthen our collective ability to bring Peace to our community.
We feel blessed that an alliance has developed around the data that is bringing together peace activists, elected officials, religious leaders, and community based public safety organizations to work with our community members on the development and implementation of strategies designed to bring peace to our streets and homes. This new coalition, named Community United for Change, includes the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, the Massachusetts Association of Minority Elected Officials, the Nubian Voices of Experience in Public Safety, Root New England, the Nation of Islam, and the City Council Offices of Chuck Turner and Charles Yancey. We also see ourselves as blessed to have the National Association of Black Police Officers willing to provide a national perspective on and assistance with our attempt to develop local strategies.
We are not expecting miracles. Yet, we are confident that we can bring a sense of peace to the community through a reduction in violence. However, to achieve those goals, we have to dedicate ourselves to the task of bringing peace; to commit ourselves to use the data and our experiences to develop strategies for change, and resolve to implement and evaluate the results of those strategies on a continual basis. As human being, we have a natural capacity to bring change. It is time to use that capacity to bring peace to our community.
In starting this assignment I was at a point in my life most would call a transitional phase. I was transitioning more so mentally than physically from a lifestyle considered not of the norm by larger society standards. This was a difficult transition because I felt I had invested so much in a lifestyle that I now wanted to leave with no understanding of how to do it because of the level of personal connection. Luckily I was now around MEN who modeled the success I wanted to achieve in my life and whom didn’t mind sharing there opinion about decisions I was currently faced with. I knew that if I wanted to get to where they were at I had to adopt some of the same practices. I started reading more and keeping a distance from those that were engaged in activities that would hurt me instead of help me. I knew that for my peers to accept the change I wanted I would have to show discipline and maintain a level of consistency to the change I was pursing. This change was not openly accepted from my peers but within time has gained a lot of support. I was starting to look at things going on around me a lot more closely and started making more decisions based on the question of, “How would this decision effect the outcome of my life?” I was learning and understanding at the time that decisions I have made in my life have been documented and some of those documentations should hinder me from moving forward. I knew that in order for me to be productive in a positive way I had to make those documentations work for me instead of against me. The two most important documentations to me have been my C.O.R.I (Criminal Offender Record Information) which details my involvement in the criminal justice system and my resume which describes my employment history and educational experience. These two documentations are opposites by society’s standard and in having both of these I’ve found myself constantly struggling with some of the life decisions I have made.
Since the Councilor only asked me to compile the data I wanted to show him that I was capable of thinking outside the box and by adding a realistic perspective to this report could help answer the question of why I felt and why some youth might feel the need to carry firearm. In my youth I would say that I carried a firearm for protection. I was not out to hurt anyone in the community, but I wanted to project a clear message that I wasn’t going to be hurt either. I believe the youth of today have taken that message and through the glamorization of violence has adopted a philosophy that it better to be caught with a firearm than without one.
This research shows that the youth homicides are consistent when compared to the year total of homicides. Between the ages of 14-25 that age range takes up almost half the homicide totals on almost any given year. You will be able to see that the level of arrest that are associated to these youth homicides are not there in the communities of color where there is a code of silence that is constantly being reinforced through no snitching campaigns. This research tells me that in a community where I walked and have not heard of any reports of major drug wars so what are the fueling factors to the youth violence of today? This research had me ask the question of “Why in a state that has the toughest gun laws do the youth of today have access to semi-automatic weapons?” “When drugs and firearms are not manufactured in the urban communities how do they get here, and if we have spent so much money on technology to indicate when they’re used how many of these weapons have been recovered?”
I believe that this report shows you that a message of hopelessness was passed down by the last few generations that devalued life. I believe that in order to counter this message from continuing we have to organized people from each generation to promote the change that is needed. Due to the lack of knowledge of self the youth of today are making decisions with no clear understanding of the consequences of there act. In order for you to be held accountable we have to hold the correct people responsible that are in positions to pass on this information. If you get from this report that the youth of today have a reason to feel that they are not being protected than I believe you are now responsible for doing your part. I have learned the hard way that I was wrong to go about and try to protect myself but after reviewing this report I know I have to do my part and hopefully you do too.