At the beginning of the summer, a wave of violence in the neighborhood of Roxbury appeared, withthree fatal shootings and one fatal stabbing in the first few weeks of July alone. When we see violence in our community, it is important to think about the causes, impacts and potential solutions for our neighborhood.
At the start of 2016, major crime in Boston fell to a 10-year low, the Boston Globe reported. However, Universal Hub reported 26 recorded murders in 2017 through the end of July, 7 of those occurring in Roxbury. After an all-time low, is the homicide rate heading back up? How can this happen in Beantown?
Even though poverty is a huge cause of crime, gentrification is playing a role, too. Boston is currently one of the most gentrified cities in the country. Gentrification is the process of renovating and improving a neighborhood due to influx of upper-middle class affluence. Many of Boston’s projects, housing areas and ghettos are slowly changing as residents are displaced, causing violence to spill over into other neighborhoods.
In Roxbury, gentrification caused in part by encroachment of Northeastern University is forcing long-time residents out and shifting crime patterns in and around the neighborhood. With over 20,000 residents, Roxbury is the third poorest neighbourhood in Boston, with the poverty level at 34.92%.
How do residents feel about what’s going on in their neighborhood? One local Roxbury teen, who would like to remain anonymous, has been in the streets since he was 13, and his dad was locked behind bars when he was young. “I lived with my mom for my whole life,” he said. “The reason I started hustling and really being in this was to support my moms. I was tired of having nothing.”
This source thinks that these crimes are happening because of all the poverty. He claims that people have to eat and they’re going to do what they have to do. He thinks Roxbury is the main place for this violence because of all of its gangs.
This is the mind of a person who’s actually going through this. Poverty, violence and murder—it’s all a cycle that Roxbury residents have been dealing with for decades. Although poverty plays a huge role in the violence, gentrification is making it worse.
People who used to live in Roxbury are being priced out and moving to neighboring cities like Lynn and Brockton, where rent is cheaper. With these people getting pushed out of their original residence, the chance of crime overflowing into these neighborhoods rises.
15-year-old Naysha Feliz from Brockton thinks the crime going on in Roxbury is getting out of hand.“It’s making the streets unsafe for not just adults, but for kids,” she claims. Feliz feels her neighborhood is already bad as it is, and Boston’s gentrification will cause crime in Brockton to skyrocket.
As an honor roll student, Feliz believes that for crime to just appear from a city away and affect her everyday life is unacceptable. Many of these people have dreams and goals they want to achieve, and crime is a major setback.
“I want the community of Roxbury to turn into somewhere people don’t have to be worried to walk out the house, where they can walk outside unharmed,” she says.
Feliz feels as if there aren’t enough opportunities for kids in their small neighborhood. She thinks too many of the kids are getting involved in violence at a young age, and there needs to be a way out for them.
Many people talk about these problems, but not enough talk about what we need to do to find the solution. We need to make our city a better place, and it all starts in the community.
Thaddeus Miles, Director of Public Safety at MassHousing, grew up in an all-black community in Virginia. To reduce crime in our communities, he believes we should focus on families and their situations. “We spend a great deal of resources on the kids, but not enough on the family unit,” he said.
Miles believes Boston’s crime can truly stop and the city can find peace. “We, as people of color in urban neighborhoods, need to address the many positive aspects of our community along with its various challenges,” he said.
Although crime in our neighborhoods is all too visible, I know we, the people, can make this all end and bring peace to our urban neighborhoods.