Partnerships between police and community-based organizations sprucing up neighborhoods have been key to community safety

A National Model for Community Safety

In 1990, violence—especially violence related to gang warfare and drugs—was tearing at the fabric of Boston’s neighborhoods. There were more than 152 homicides and 1,000 aggravated assaults that year,
and no end was in sight. The Boston Police Department was ineffective in the face of such horrifying statistics and community agony—and community members despaired. Faced with a poor economy in the early 1990s, declining revenue for city government, and the collapse of conventional approaches to crime prevention, police officials and community-based groups searched for new answers. They found those answers in an unprecedented series of partnerships and cooperative work on the part of the entire city—an effort that eventually would be dubbed “the
Boston Miracle.”

The Boston Miracle

In the spring of 1997, President Bill Clinton traveled to Boston to announce a national community safety and anti-crime initiative based on Boston’s incredibly successful model. Following years of soaring crime statistics and violent murders, more than one and a half years had passed since Boston had lost a young person to violence on its streets—and President Clinton came to praise Boston and to learn. Although he emphasized law enforcement in his speech, which was delivered on the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts, he was acutely aware that the key to the “Boston Miracle” was partnership: among city government, under Mayor Thomas M. Menino; the Boston Police Department, headed first by William Bratton and then by Commissioner Paul Evans; law enforcement through the office of Ralph Martin, then the District Attorney of Suffolk County; a
nd a myriad of powerful and deeply-committed community based groups, especially the leadership and commitment of one group called the Ten Point Coalition.

The Boston Ten Point Coalition

The Ten Point Coalition was created in 1992 after gang members violently disrupted a funeral service in a local church, causing a number of urban pastors to take on the responsibility of redirecting the lives of an entire generation of young people trapped in a cycle of violence and self-destructive behavior. These pastors talked with, listened—and learned—from young people themselves. In the process, the Ten Point Plan and Coalition was born—an alliance of inner-city ministers whose mission it is to mobilize the Christian community on behalf of black and
Latino youth, especially those at risk for violence, drug abuse, and other destructive behaviors. The Boston Ten Point Coalition grew to become an ecumenical group of 67 churches, whose clergy and lay leaders work to organize the Greater Boston community, one neighborhood at a time, one young person at a time.

Community Policing

Beginning in 1992, the Boston Police Department became deeply committed to its own Boston brand of community policing, which combines crime prevention and law enforcement with close daily work by the Police and a broad segment of community-based groups and residents. This included a major retraining of the police force, with a focus on how to understand—and work with—diverse cultures and groups. The latest in problem-solving techniques and approaches from Boston’s rich vein of management consulting firms became core to new-recruit training. In a series of unprecedented problem-solving retreats, police, elected leaders, community groups, church leaders, and even gang members brainstormed a new approach to community safety. They took the new “community policing” model initiated in Houston and several other cities, and developed something much more powerful. Eventually, it would be dubbed the “Boston Miracle.”