Local officials celebrate National Night Out
The Boston Police Department put on community events across the city Monday and Tuesday in celebration of “National Night Out,” a campaign by the nonprofit National Association of Town Watch to foster positive relationships between the community and law enforcement.
Officers were joined by Mayor Michelle Wu and other city officials in parks across the city, where family-friendly activities took place and community leaders were honored with awards for their service in promoting public safety.
“This is our first year of National Night Out back since before the pandemic,” Mayor Wu said at the Jamaica Plain party held in Mozart Park. “And we are incredibly lucky to be in a city where community partnerships have always been the starting point and the foundation for all that we do, and that applies for public safety and our health and communities, and small businesses as well.”
The Monday roster of NNO events also included block-party style gatherings in Brighton, Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan and Roxbury. Events continued Tuesday with gatherings in East Boston, Chinatown, the South End, North End, South Boston and Dorchester.
In JP, Wu was joined by city councilors Erin Murphy and Riccardo Arroyo, District Attorney Kevin Hayden, Sheriff Steve Tompkins and U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins.
Rollins, remarking that the last time she was in the area was for work related to a 2018 double homicide at a nearby home, reflected on the importance of building positive relationships between the community and police.
“I think it’s important that law enforcement also comes back when things are positive — and there are so many positive things about this neighborhood,” she said. “But we also know that there are things that we need to do better. So I’m excited to be here in the new role as the U.S. Attorney. Prior to that, I was your elected Suffolk County DA, and we’re going to make sure we show up as the federal government.”
The Jamaica Plain BPD District E-13 is led by Captain John Hughes, who emceed the award ceremony portion of Monday’s event. Hughes is a native of JP and just recently returned to the neighborhood after working districts across the city.
“I think [it’s important] to let the people see the officers face to face, rather than at a call when they’re having a bad day,” Hughes said.
He also noted falling crime and the role that longevity and knowing the neighborhood plays in combating criminal behavior in the area.
“Some of these guys have been here for 10, 15 years. So they really know the area well,” he said.
According to the end-of-year crime report released by the department in January, violent crime fell across the city by 15% in 2021, and property crime fell 13%.
Wu told the Banner Monday that strategic community partnerships are one factor leading to the decline in crime.
“We are a city with very, very strong partnerships built on decades of community and leadership, working very closely with public safety officials. But it’s also between different levels of government, and clear alignment on our values that to be a safe and healthy city, we have to be a city for everyone,” she said.
One group partnering with BPD that had a booth in Mozart Park was the nonprofit Circle of Hope, which partners with police to provide homeless children, women and men in Boston and MetroWest with necessities to improve their health.
Founder and Executive Director Barbara Waterhouse told the Banner that organizations like hers paired with Community Service Officers help repair broken relationships with those most in need.
“It’s really important for the officers to have something tangible — the toiletries, the socks, or winter coat — and just to say, this is for you. It’s a trust built,” she said. “And I think for a lot of reasons that we all know about, that trust has been eroded.”
Other organizations that work with police and the community include the Mildred C. Hailey Youth Drop-in Center that offers a safe space for youth and connects them to programming for education, employment and health resources. Coordinator Joshua Francois was awarded a plaque for his service. For the Tree of Life organization, which connects pregnant women with resources, leader Josefina Osorio won an award, and a local business owner and community leader Jerry Rodgers also received a plaque.
Sergeant Ryan Cunningham, head of the Community Service Officers for E-13, who organized the NNO event and gave out the awards, noted the importance of calling out good deeds by the community.
“I think it means a great deal,” he said. “A lot of these folks work really hard. They’re working in the shadows. A lot of times they don’t get the notoriety or the gratitude that they always should. So I think it was nice to recognize some of the people that are really making a difference out there on the street.”
Cunningham also underscored that having officers on the streets connecting with neighbors is crucial in combating crime.
“We’re fortunate enough to have a lot of support and network here with religious institutions, neighborhood groups, community groups, sports teams and leagues. And we have great working relationships with the other agencies in the city of Boston. But also the private businesses that are here, and they feel comfortable approaching us with concerns they have or you know, things they want to work on,” he said. “And that’s what it’s all about — building a good team.”