|“I never feel safe until the NOI is on the case.”
Residents of Boston’s inner city endure an insufferable rate of crime committed by young men. Gun shots in the night and drive-by shootings are too common occurrences. News reports the next day provide information on the body count.
Periodically, a violent incident is so depraved that it exhausts the community’s patient tolerance. The shooting on Woolson Street in Mattapan last month was such an incident. Three nude men, a young woman and her 2-year-old son were found shot on the street when police responded to gunfire at 1 a.m. The only survivor was one of the men, who is severely wounded.
Many residents are now wondering what happened to “the Boston Miracle.” When the homicide rate of victims 24 and under climbed to 72 in 1990, a concerted effort reduced it to only 15 in 1999 through 2000, but the youth murder rate has been climbing ever since. It reached 39 in 2005 and 2006, and is still climbing.
A rational approach to curtailing the growth in youth homicide, where both the victims and the perpetrators are 24 years old or less, is to recall the strategies that created the Boston Miracle of a decade ago. That might not be as easy as it sounds because many different groups came forward back then to assert that their efforts were primarily responsible for the Miracle.
Three of the groups actively involved back then are still operating today: The Boston Police, the Ten Point Coalition and the street workers, which have been recently reactivated by foundation financing. Noticeably absent for many years has been the Nation of Islam. Unlike the others which depend on financing, the Nation of Islam (NOI) is comprised entirely of volunteers.
According to Minister Don Muhammad, the leader of the NOI, its financial independence has helped to establish its effectiveness. He claims the people know that the NOI has no other interest than the welfare of the community. However, their lack of financial resources requires the NOI to depend upon close cooperation with the police.
Unfortunately, a more distant relationship between Police Commissioner Edward Davis and the NOI than what existed with prior administrations has hampered the ability of the NOI to intervene in gang disputes in a timely fashion. That is certainly an important missing element of the strategy that was once so effective in curtailing gang violence.
What does it take to recognize the gravity of the situation and change course? A teenager assassinated, in cold blood, another school boy waiting for the bus, although there was no disagreement between them. A group of youngsters stabbed to death a pizza delivery man, because they were hungry. And on Woolson Street, a 2-year-old baby was callously gunned down, and two young men were made to strip before their execution.
Citizens were proud of the Boston Miracle. They are horrified by recent events. It is time to mobilize every resource of the city to put an end to this crime wave. It is reckless of public safety to fail to recruit the involvement of the NOI, and any other helpful group, in the effort to bring peace to Boston’s inner city.