Can Experience or New Programs Beat Boston Crime?

Sep 13, 2009 5:00 PM. All work by

As November nears, one of the important issues of this year’s mayoral election will be public safety. Like any urban environment, Boston is subject to a high volume of crime that each candidate has so far tried to address.

The city of Boston, under Mayor Thomas Menino, has gotten better about cracking down on crime. According to the preliminary data released by the Boston Police Department, crime fell an impressive 15 percent in 2008. But these outstanding numbers came at a high price for Menino.

Last year, about $23.4 million was spent on overtime hours for police officers, firefighters and security guards—a morsel of information that city councilor and mayoral opponent Sam Yoon has capitalized on. The mayor’s ability to justify the excess is hindered by the fact that violent crime has hardly decreased at all.

Yoon cites the overages on his campaign website and couples them with his own crime-fighting plan to contain spending. In a hypocritical move, Yoon announced his plan to increase the sales tax by 0.5 percent to 6.75 percent, bestowing Massachusetts with the sixth-highest sales tax nation-wide. Yoon plans to use the revenue solely on enhancing public safety, namely by increasing community crime-prevention programs—a resource that all candidates have also vowed to bolster in varying capacities.

Candidate Michael Flaherty, also a city councilor, has the most robust community prevention plan of the four candidates. As a former assistant district attorney, Flaherty has real experience with crime and law enforcement and makes councilor Yoon’s anecdotes of his Dorchester home seem unprofessional. Flaherty also backs up his statements of better public safety with a seven-page document that details his plan for “de-centralizing” how Boston polices its neighborhoods. This document, available online, seeks to lure citizens out of their homes and place them on the street as an unarmed police force—a policy that busy professionals and the elderly may not be so apt to follow.

Despite all the shortfalls of the aforementioned candidates, each can rest assured that his public safety plan is not the worst of the bunch. Compared to Menino, Yoon, and Flaherty, Kevin McCrea seems to completely miss the issue of public safety and lacks both experience and a plan. On his campaign website, McCrea not only generalizes criminals as “young people with no resources, distressed families and neighborhoods, and no confidence,” but he thinks the problem will go away when there are more jobs.

His background as a real estate developer really comes out in the “Public Safety” of his platform. Of the five vows to his voters, McCrea only directly addresses crime prevention once. The others are about development and business. “I will focus on more local manufacturing development, rather than on office towers,” the platform reads. How is this suppose to minimize crime?

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