Community leaders praised Roca as a national model for its positive impact in helping to decrease incidents of urban violence during a panel discussion held June 27 at Northeast Crossing in Boston.
Carl Miranda, director of Roca Boston moderated the discussion that featured panelists, Thomas Abt, author of “Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence – and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets; Ed Dolan, commissioner of Massachusetts Probation Services; Tracy Litthcut, co-director of the Boston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety; and Anthony Braga, director and Distinguished Professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University.
Molly Baldwin, CEO of Roca, was in attendance at the panel discussion. It was Baldwin who founded the Chelsea-based agency whose mission has been “to disrupt the cycle of incarceration of poverty by helping young people transform their lives.”
Abt, a senior research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, has some interesting observations in his book, which not only contains a rigorous analysis of urban violence and its consequences, but also a concrete and helpful framework for the moving the needle on violence.
For example, Abt writes that “In Boston, 70 percent of all shootings over a three-year period were concentrated in areas covering approximately five percent of the city. In most cities, four percent of city blocks account for approximately 50 percent of crime.”
Chelsea Police Capt. David Batchelor, whose work with city partners in Chelsea Hub has helped local families facing difficult challenges, thanked the panelists for their research and the information presented at the forum.
“Any information that we can get to make our city safer and helped people is definitely beneficial to us,” said Batchelor.
Batchelor then spoke about identifying at-risk individuals at a younger age.
“It certainly makes sense in identifying individuals that are at high risk and getting those people the services and remove them from that high risk,” said Batchelor. “My only thought is that sometimes we wait too long. I think there are identifying risk factors prior to a person getting involved in a shooting or being a victim – and I think we know that.
“I wish we could start [identifying high-risk situations] a little younger – we’re starting at 17, 18, 19-year-olds into their 20s – I think you can identify those behaviors almost in middle school,” concluded Batchelor. “Sometimes, we’re waiting for something bad to happen, we’re waiting for that person to be a victim or a perpetrator before everything is mobilized and I know it’s a challenge because they’re at a young age, but I think we’re doing a disservice not trying to figure out a way to get that help to them at an earlier age.”
Batchelor said he appreciates conversation about urban violence, “but being a police officer for a long time, but I wonder how things are getting done – how are we going to do this? We have to share information and there are privacy concerns and laws so we’re afraid to talk to each other and we’re all working in our own little worlds. It’s a challenge. Where’s the line where we can share or not? I think we need to be able to figure that out to help our communities and keep people safe and get them on the right track.”
(Information from the press release about the panel discussion was used in the compilation of this story).