Please note: The data and analyses contained in this section are no longer being updated and are presented here solely as an archive of Boston Indicators’ work on this Indicators Framework between the years 2000 and 2015.


Public Safety

Goal: 8.1 Low Crime Rates in Boston





Trends in Types of Crimes

  • Property Crime, Boston
  • Violent Crime, Boston

The Boston Police Department ensures the safety and well-being of Boston residents by combining its nationally-known neighborhood policing methods with state-of-the-art technologies and data tracking systems.  Its partnerships with communities, faith-based organizations and other state and federal law enforcement agencies have yielded innovative strategies to reduce crime.

Crime rates in Boston continue to decline following an up-tick in 2005 and 2006, with much of the credit going to an increased emphasis on community policing, more street workers and reinvigorated and new public/private partnerships.  Overall, crime in Boston declined by 8.4%, or 2,632 incidents, between 2007 and 2008, continuing a gradual drop since the last peak in 2001. However, citywide averages obscure an increase in youth violence in geographic “hot spots,” for which Street Safe Boston—a $20 million public-private partnership targeting youth violence—and new policing initiatives have been launched, even in the face of budget cuts.Citywide, property crime (robbery, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft) increased by 1%—or 224 incidents—between 2007 and 2008, but dropped by 14% since 2000. Citywide, actual and attempted vehicle thefts were down by 30%, burglary by 9% and larceny by 6%.Citywide, total violent crime, including homicides, rapes ,aggravated assault (actual and attempted) declined by 8%, or 392 incidents, from 31,366 in 2007 to 28,743 in 2008. Half of reported violent crimes are concentrated in Police Districts that comprise roughly one-third of the city’s population and cover the neighborhoods of Roxbury/Mission Hill (20%), Dorchester (16%), and Mattapan/North Dorchester (14%).

Crime in Boston's public housing has also declined to the lowest rate since the early 1990's.  In 2008 there were over 200 fewer violent crimes at BHA locations than in 2006 and roughly 800 fewer than in 1993.  Property crimes also declined by about 200 incidences between 2006 and 2008 with roughly 1,300 fewer property crimes than in 1993.

Goal: 8.2 Perceptions of Public Safety & Quality of Life





Resident Public Perception of Safety

  • Neighborhood Perceptions of Safety
  • Perception of Increase in Weapons
  • Perceptions of Gang Activity
The perception of crime, real or not,can inhibit private-sector investment, neighborhood socializing, and civic efficacy.  Perceived levels of crime also tell us whether community-policing strategies, such as citizen involvement and neighborhood-based police officers, are making residents feel safer in their own communities.

According to the Boston Police Department’s 2008 Boston Neighborhood Survey, fewer than half of Bostonians—43%—feel that their neighborhood is safe. Neighborhoods with the lowest percentage of residents feeling safe were Roxbury (22%), North Dorchester (22%) and Mattapan (25%) in contrast to residents of the Back Bay (69%),West Roxbury (68%) and the North End (60%). Increasing concern over gang activity is a contributor to such perceptions: 19% of Bostonians felt gangs were a problem.


Quality of Life Incidents

Crime prevention requires constant vigilance. People’s instincts about possible threats to their community are often harbingers of things to come. ‘Keeping an eye on things’ and intervening at an early stage can help to maintain public safety. The Boston Police Department tracks safety–related problems that people observe in their neighborhoods, as well as residents’ perceived vulnerability to specific crimes, in order to prepare for what may lie ahead.

In 2006, respondents to the Boston Police Department’s Citizen Survey were most likely to identify “litter and trash lying around,” car brake-ins, drug sales, burglary and vandalism as being serious or somewhat serious problems. In 2003, the same issues were most likely to be identified, except at that time “kids hanging around” was a greater concern and fewer respondents identified burglary as a serious or somewhat serious problem.

Goal: 8.3 Strong Civic and Social Networks





Residents who Trust their Neighbors in Boston

  • Trust in Neighbors
Neighborhood trust and connections deter criminal activity as neighbors watch out for each other and provide informal surveillance.  Residents organized in neighborhood networks are often able to address minor concerns, such as loitering and illegal dumping of trash that can attract criminal activity.  Neighbors can also send a strong positive message through activities such as block parties, neighborhood cleanups, and street and front porch activity.  Environments and housing with windows overlooking the street, front porches, front yards, community gardens or pedestrian-friendly streets can help to increase social interaction and build neighborhood trust.   

In 2006, 75% of the citywide respondents to the Boston Police Department’s Citizen Survey said that they felt they could rely on a neighbor for help. This is a small decrease from approximately 79% citywide in 2003. The areas that had the highest percentage of affirmative replies in 2006 were Jamaica Plain (86%), West Roxbury/Roslindale (85%), Downtown/Beacon Hill/Chinatown (81%) and Charlestown (80%). The lowest percentage of affirmative responses was in Roxbury/Mission Hill (65%) and Mattapan/North Dorchester (66%).


Trends in Reported Hate Crimes in Boston

  • Hate Crimes by Type
  • Hate Crimes by Perpetrator
  • Hate Crimes by Victim

The number of hate crimes reported speaks to both the level of safety in a community and level of acceptance of diverse neighbors and community members.  The Boston Police Department’s Community Disorders Unit classifies a “hate crime” as a simple assault, destruction of property, threats, and harassment with racial epithets.  In analyzing hate crime data, it is important to understand that heightened awareness (and therefore more frequent reporting and investigation) of such crimes may account for an apparent rise.

The number of hate crimes in Boston investigated by the Community Disorders Unit of the Boston Police Department (BPD) continued to decline overall, reaching an all-time low of 169 in 2006, despite a slight increase in 2005 to 219 reported incidents.

According to the BPD, the greatest number of hate crimes in 2006—roughly 30%—were perpetrated on the basis of sexual orientation.  For the first time, African Americans comprised the second largest group of victims with 33—or 20%—reported incidents in 2006, down from 65—or 30%—in 2005.  Jewish people experienced the largest increase in perpetrated hate crimes in 2006 with 24 reported incidents, double the number in 2005 and up from just 9 in 2004.  Crimes against Middle Eastern people declined to 8 incidents in 2006 from 20 in 2004.

According to the BPD, the Police District including South Boston reported the highest number and percentage of hate and miscellaneous crimes for 2006 with 43 incidents—roughly 20%—followed by Central/Beacon Hill and Dorchester, both with 27 incidents, and the South End/Back Bay District with 26 incidents.  Mattapan experienced the largest decrease in incidents with 6 in 2006, down from 18 in 2005.  Allston/Brighton and Hyde Park also experienced 9 fewer hate crimes in 2006 than in 2005.

Goal: 8.4 Supportive Environment for Youth and Children





Juvenile Crime Rates

  • Youth Crime, Ages 14 to 24
  • Youth Crime by Type, Ages 16 and Under
  • Percent of Youth Who Have Carried a Weapon

Research conducted by Harvard University found that just 1% of Boston's 16-24 year olds drive over 50% of all gun-related violence in the city.  Reductions in youth violent crime not only ensures a safer experience for the city's young people, but for all residents

Overall youth crime declined from a high of 9,457 incidents in 2006 to 7,101 incidents in 2009, according to the more recently available data from the Boston Police Department.  This decline was largely due to a decrease in Part 2, or quality of life, crimes committed by youth in Boston as the total number of violent and property crimes committed by those under 24 remained at about 3,000 incidents.  The decline was also driven by a falling number of incidents involving very young youth under the age of 16.

Additionally, the percent of teens in Boston who reported carrying a gun within the previous month continued to fall to just 3.3% in 2011 compared to 10% of teens in 1993.  The racial/ethnic gap has all but closed when it comes to carrying weapons: 3.9% of African Americans, 3.5% of white and 2.8% of Latinos reported carrying a gun in 2011 compared to 15.3%, 4.7% and 9.6%, respectively, in 1993.

Out-of-School Time Recreation Opportunities

Since children spend less than 20% of their time in school, time spent out of school is critical to their development and learning. Experts cite three key reasons for investing in after-school activities. According to BostoNavigator, there are more tan 120 facilities across the city of Boston providing hundreds of different programming options for out of school time activity and learning.  The Boston Center for Youth and Families also runs 34 different sites across the city, including pools that are open seasonally.  Together, City and private out-of-school facilities provide programming in the arts, sports, college prep, technology and media literacy, jobs an career exploration among many other options.


Rates of Delinquency at School

  • Annual Expulsion Rates by School
  • Annual Truancy Rates by School
  • Annual Dropout Rates by School
Time spent out of school due to suspension, truancy or dropouts and expulsions places young people at a greater risk for engagement in risky behavior. Suspensions: The BPS district-wide suspension rate has remained around 6% for the last few academic years, but is down from near 9% in 2007.  However, a number of schools had a suspension rate near 18% or higher in 2011 including a number of BPS high schools and charter schools.

Truancy: the BPS district average truancy rate has remained at about 1%.  However, 6 schools in Boston--including 5 charter schools--had an annual truancy rate greater than 4% in 2011.

Dropouts: Annual dropout rates in BPS dropped 6.4% in 2011, the lowest rate on record.  However, at as many as 28 schools (both district and charter schools) the annual dropout rate was greater than 15%.

Goal: 8.5 Public Funding and Support for Public Safety





Trends in Funding for the Boston Police Department

  • Funding for Boston Police Department

The single largest public safety challenge facing the City of Boston is the decline in available resources as homeland security demands, combined with budget cuts, direct resources away from much needed public safety initiatives.  Careful and coordinated planning and sustained public support will be necessary to ensure that gains in everyday public safety are maintained.

Since 2001, the number of Boston Police officers has declined along with federal funding for the department. The City received $32.1 million in federal community policing grants in the three fiscal years prior to Sept. 11, 2001, compared with $12.6 million in the three years after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The Department received $2 million in federal funding in 2006—approximately 33% less than in 2005.

According to the FBI, the Boston Police Department lost 3% of its force, or 68 officers, from 2002 to 2005. Nationwide the number of law enforcement officers rose 1% during that time. In the 1990s there were about 2,300 Boston police officers. In 2005, the overall police force numbered about 2,070, while the patrol force dipped to about 1,300 from about 1,500 five years ago. The Department recently announced that it had initiated a recruiting campaign for new officers, which is intended to bring the total number of officers to the highest level since 2001.


Massachusetts Funding for Safety & Criminal Justice

  • Massachusetts Funding for Law Enforcement
  • Massachusetts Funding for Prisons, Probation & Parole

Massachusetts funding for law enforcement was over $400 million from the years 2006-2009, but following the recession, funding has fallen to less than $330 million from FY10 to FY12--about the same as in 2005.

Funding for the Department of Children, Youth & Families

  Funding for the Department of Children, Youth and Families has fallen from more than $976 million in FY09 to $890 million in FY12 and just $760 budgeted for FY13.