What is Public Safety?
Public safety is the peace of mind that results from the effective prevention of and/or response to events that endanger or threaten both individuals and the general public with physical, emotional or financial harm. Public safety encompasses both violent and non-violent crime, from domestic and street violence to cyber-security and white-collar crime. The Public Safety sector consists of the criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies as well as consumer protection and public health and public education agencies at all levels of government, from the US Department of Homeland Security to local first responders. It includes neighborhood crime watch groups, youth- and street-workers, community- and faith-based organizations, substance-abuse, mental health and other preventive programs as well as academic criminal justice departments and schools of law.
THE PUBLIC SAFETY SECTOR IN BOSTON
In addition to crime prevention and response, public safety includes emergency preparedness and response – from Homeland Security and the Coast Guard to local Firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians. It also includes food and product safety.
Federal agencies involved in protecting residents of Boston and New England include the regional offices of the departments of Justice and Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), the Federal Trade Commission for consumer protection, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), the US Coast Guard, US Attorney’s Office and the FBI.
State public safety departments include the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and the Massachusetts Department of Correction. The Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) is the Commonwealth’s juvenile justice agency, “promoting positive change in the lives of those in our custody,” while the Department of Children and Families is charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect.
Area hospitals such as the Boston Medical Center and Children's Hospital Boston. Regional organizations such as the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) are essential partners in local and regional public safety networks.
Boston’s Fire Fighting Force is organized into 2 divisions and 11 districts. Each division is under the command of a Deputy Fire Chief and each district is under the command of a District Fire Chief, with companies classified as: Engine Company; Ladder Company; Rescue Company; Tower Company; and Marine Unit. All companies are under the command of a Fire Captain and are divided into four shifts.
The City of Boston is within the jurisdiction of several Suffolk County law enforcement offices. The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has teams of attorneys, advocates and investigators in nine district and municipal courts – eight in Boston – with specialized units to handle cases involving child abuse, sexual assault, elders, juveniles and gangs. Most felonies committed in Boston are tried in Suffolk Superior Court and most serious crimes committed by defendants under age 17 are adjudicated in the Boston Juvenile Court.
Cases are appealed to the Massachusetts Appeals Court or the Supreme Judicial Court. Suffolk County law enforcement offices also include the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and the Suffolk County House of Correction.
The City of Boston falls within the jurisdiction of several Suffolk County law enforcement offices. The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has teams of attorneys, advocates and investigators in nine district and municipal courts, eight located in Boston, with specialized units to handle some cases involving child abuse, sexual assault, elders, juveniles and gangs.
Most felonies committed in Boston are tried in Suffolk Superior Court and most serious crimes committed by defendants under age 17 are adjudicated in the Boston Juvenile Court. Cases are appealed to the Massachusetts Appeals Court or the Supreme Judicial Court. Other Suffolk County law enforcement offices include the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and the Suffolk County House of Correction.
The Boston Police Department (BPD) is increasingly focused on a community policing and analytical model of crime prevention that includes:
- Safe Street Teams to increase police/community engagement through walking beats, preventive measures and enforcement. Teams are active in: Egleston Square (E13); South End/Lower Roxbury (D4); Franklin Field (B2); Eagle Hill/Maverick (A7); Orchard Park/Dudley (B2); Codman Square (C-11); Codman Square (B-3); Downtown Crossing (A1); Tremont Street/Stuart Street (A1); Blue Hill Avenue/Morton Street (B3); Bowdoin Street/Geneva Avenue (C11); Grove Hall (B2); Upham’s Corner (B2); and Franklin Hill (B3).
- Youth Service Providers Network (YSPN), a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, that places social workers in our district stationhouses and specialized units to work with at-risk/high-risk youth and their families referred by Police Officers.
- COMPSTAT, a multifaceted and interactive approach to crime control and quality of life improvement strategies through crime data analysis and the mapping of trends by the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), and a live mapping software program – CrimeShow – that allows for instant analysis.
- The Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) identifies major impact players and the location of shootings and gang violence to better understand the complex nature of gangs and supplies intelligence to improve Boston’s counter-terrorism capacity and the monitoring of returning ex-offenders. It also uses Shot Spotter, an acoustical technology, to locate shootings immediately, with notifications generally arriving 1 - 2 minutes ahead of 911 calls.
- Text-A-Tip is an anonymous text messaging tip line by which individuals can text the word “tip” to Crime (27463) to report a crime that is publicized through MBTA-donated ad space in subway cars, platforms and buses.
- The Street Outreach Team addresses the needs of the homeless, individuals with mental illness and chronic substance abusers in partnership with mental health agencies, service providers, shelter outreach personnel, Community Service Officers, and the courts.
- The Constituent Response Team (CRT), identifies, analyzes and compares data through computerized mapping from multiple sources such as citizen complaints for minor crimes, nuisances, loitering, unruly youth, public drinking, loud music and physical disorder such as abandoned buildings, graffiti, litter and vacant lots so that they can be addressed by Boston’s departments of Public Works, Transportation, Neighborhood Services, Code Enforcement, Parks and Recreation, Graffiti Busters and Basic City Services.
- Operation Ceasefire: The BPD has convened interagency working groups focused on preventing serious gun violence in Districts 2, 3, 4, and 11. Meeting bi-weekly, groups review gun incidents and gang violence, and develop violence reduction plans blending enforcement, intervention, and prevention strategies. One tactic us is a “Call In” in which 6 – 20 or more gang members associated with a specific incidence of violence are called into court to meet with criminal justice professionals and community based agencies.
- Operation Homefront. Under the premise that the family is the first line of defense against gang/criminal activity among youth, Homefront is a collaboration among the BPD School Police Unit, Youth Violence Strike Force, Boston Public School Police and Faith-Based Organizations. Home visits are conducted on a weekly basis via referrals from various Boston Police officers, Boston Public Schools, law enforcement agencies, community based service providers and clergy. Parents are informed about their son/daughter’s negative behavior and educated on the warning signs of criminal and/or gang involvement.
- Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel (CO-OP), a three person independent civilian board appointed by the Mayor reviews Internal Investigations cases appealed by complainants.
- National Night Out is a citywide celebration that cultivates and strengthens partnerships among the community, youth, police, city agencies and community-based organizations.
Boston is a model for strong community-police partnerships to effectively fight crime and violence which in the 1990s became known as the Boston Miracle following a sharp reduction in youth homicides. Partners include such faith-based organizations as the Boston TenPoint Coalition, the Black Ministerial Alliance, and mechanisms such as the Summer Safety Funding Collaborative to extend the hours of operation of summer programs and enhance their quality. Teen Empowerment mobilizes youth and holds an annual Boston Youth Peace Conference. In addition, groups such as Citizens for Juvenile Justice organize forums on important t issues open to the public. and hosts an annual Leadership Celebration for the entire community of people who work with and on behalf of at-risk youth. These groups were joined in 2010 by a powerful new organization of mothers who lost children to violence, Mothers for Justice and Equality.The Boston Foundation is focusing its anti-violence strategy on StreetSafe Boston, an initiative reaching out to proven-risk youth through a streetworker program and connecting them to the mainstream through education, jobs, housing and other services – a national and international, model for violence prevention.
Boston’s Neighborhood Crime Watches, through which neighbors come together, get to know one another and get involved in issues of crime and safety and other quality of life issues.
Greater Boston contains many of the nation’s premier academic programs in criminal justice studies: Northeastern University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and its Institute on Race and Justice; Harvard University’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management; BU’s Metropolitan College program and Suffolk University’s graduate program in Crime and Justice Studies.