Boston Cops and Unsolved Homicides: Is There Something Rotten in Boston’s Finest?

smoking-gunThe Boston Herald over the last week or so has made much ado about the unsolved homicide cases in the City of Boston. A headline on July 28 read: “Boston lags behind U.S. in solving murders.”

The first few lines read: The Boston Police Department is carrying a grim ledger of 336 unsolved murder cases from the past 10 years — a period that saw the city consistently lagging behind the national average for cracking slay cases despite repeated changes in strategies and leadership, a Herald review found. The stunning total of unsolved cases encompasses 2004 to 2013, . . . killed 628 people across the dozen neighborhoods patrolled by Boston cops”  (my emphasis)

The article then went on to show the homicides occurred at a much greater rate in black neighborhoods: “Black men were slain at 10 times the rate of white men” and “More than two-thirds of the city’s murders were committed in Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester” which are predominately black areas.

Then it put a little bit of a hit on the Boston Police: “Of the city’s 628 victims, 410 were black males and 38 were white males. But police solved only 38 percent of the murders of black males compared to 79 percent for the slayings of white men.” Overall, it noted that “police arrested, charged or formally identified suspects in 47 percent of the homicides.

As an aside a close friend of mine was a Boston police detective in homicide for many years. I’d talk to him off and on about his work. For him the race of the victim never made a difference, he was driven to solve all the case he had handed to him. I had that in mind reading the article and wondered if we were getting the straight scoop. For sure all the statistics may be right but are they telling the correct picture?

You’ve heard the old saw about comparing apples with apples. For instance in comparing unsolved murders rates you could on one hand compare Boston (646,000 population) to Memphis (653,000) or Baltimore (645,000). It would look pretty good if you looked at the list of the top ten cities in unsolved murders: St. Louis, Oakland, Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta, Baltimore, Stockton, Cleveland and Buffalo. Boston’s not among them.

On the other hand in Seattle,(652,000) 8 of 26 homicides committed in 2012 were unsolved by the end of that year giving it a rate at least in the low 30s or even less since it might have solved others after the end of the year.

Another way to look at things is to consider them from a state wide perspective. If you compared the unsolved homicide rates in Massachusetts (43.8%) with Idaho (3.9%) you’d worry that something was drastically wrong; if you compared it with Rhode Island (42%) you’d figure it was about right; if you compared it with Washington, D.C. (56.1%) or Illinois (55.4%) or even New York (44%) you wouldn’t be too unhappy.

The last cited report on the states noted: Despite dramatic improvements in DNA analysis and forensic science, police fail to make an arrest in more than one-third of all homicides. National clearance rates for murder and manslaughter have fallen from about 90 percent in the 1960s to below 65 percent in recent years.”

Boston’s unsolved murder rate is far from “stunning. Comparing Boston, a city with a black population of 24.4%, against the national average where 12.6% are black is an obvious skewing of the facts. It is totally misleading since compared to other cities similarly composed it is doing an all right job.

Putting it on the Boston Police and hinting that they are not doing their best because a black person was murdered rather than a white person is plainly wrong. It’s like blaming teachers for the failure of students to perform when the poor kids are coming from homes that destroy any incentive to study or learn. Scapegoating those who work in the public sector is easy; what is hard is looking for the source of the problem and putting the blame where it rightfully belongs.

On Friday Mayor Martin Walsh met with a group of women who have had their close relatives and friends murdered. To his great credit, Walsh listened to them express their grief and offered what solace he could. He has come up with some ideas that he will work with the police department to implement. Probably the best being the institution of more surveillance cameras in the so-called “hot spots.” Despite the expected outcry from some civil libertarians, such as the NAACP president who is reported to have made a statement I have a hard time following, “street cameras should only be utilized to solve violent crimes and not to harass residents,” we have to keep in mind that the Tsarnaevs might still be walking the streets of Boston without them.

If you want the police to be most effective, give them the best tools to work with. If there is something rotten in Boston it’s the fact so many blacks have been murdered. That fault lies far beyond the ability of the Boston Police to stop.

8 thoughts on “Boston Cops and Unsolved Homicides: Is There Something Rotten in Boston’s Finest?

  1. “Despite dramatic improvements in DNA analysis and forensic science, police fail to make an arrest in more than one-third of all homicides. National clearance rates for murder and manslaughter have fallen from about 90 percent in the 1960s to below 65 percent in recent years.”

    I think that this statistic, if true, should not be prefaced with the word “Despite.” DNA analysis has also helped determine who is NOT the killer, therefore exonerating some of the 90% who were charged and convicted of murders they did not commit in the pre-DNA analysis era. More sloppy reporting by the Herald.

    1. Dave:

      Good point. DNA analysis is a double edged sword. Not only will it point a finger at the right culprit, it will also exonerate the innocent and falsely accused. Therefore we can say that the 90% clearance rate in the 1960s might have included a large group of innocent individuals.

      Neither the authors of that quote nor I picked up that obvious truth. Nice work.

      1. Thanks Matt. I have been reading your earlier blog posts from January and February of 2013 and it really has affirmed many of my own beliefs after reading the Cullen and Murphy’s book, Black Mass, Hitman and Ratman. Flemmi and Martorano are obviously biased perjurers whose stories about the Learning Years murders make little sense. In addition to the lack of facts surrounding the Spike O’Toole and Eddie Connor’s murders, arguably the most gruesome murders during the Boss Years make little sense. Flemmi’s versions of the Debbie Davis and Deborah Hussey murders just don’t add up. Bulger’s motives for those killings were much weaker than Flemmi’s. Flemmi had all the motive. His argument that he told Whitey he blurted to Deb Davis he was an informant is absurd. He was an FBI informant for approx 20 years at that point, he would not have survived that long if all it took was an upset girlfriend/wife to get him to reveal his FBI connection. Flemmi’s version about Deb Hussey is all the more preposterous. Why would Bulger care about Deb Hussey’s activities, how would that embarrass him? He had no connection to her other than being Stevie’s friend. It’s clear to me Hussey was causing Flemmi either marital problems or personal embarrassment and decided she had to go. Weeks confirms this killing to as you say it, make Whitey as evil as possible and involve him in as many murders as possible to get the best deal.

        Moreover, on your theory about the Connolly/Brothers Bulger alliance, the age discrepancy between Connolly and the Bulger brothers makes theory they had a tight Southie bond a bit attenuated. Please read the email I sent to you last week, if you are interested I be thrilled. Thanks again and as always keep up with the amazing work.

        – Dave

          1. Dave:

            They really can’t be excused since they are not noticed and if they are they are considered normal for this site with me being the biggest offender.

            Much of the Whitey story is myth. The idea he terrorized Boston when few ever heard of him is the biggest. Of course the Davis and Hussey murders were solely the idea of Flemmi; do you think Whitey cared if Debbie Davis was dumping Stevie and going to live with a nice guy in Mexico. But that doesn’t mean Whitey didn’t murder them as a favor to Stevie; after all they were like two peas in a pod.

            There is no way Whitey ever met John Connolly in the projects. The ice cream story is laughable. It is told as if Connolly and Bulger were the only two who had ancestors in Ireland. That was one of John Connolly’s biggest problems, he made things up to make himself look good. It is possible Billy and John knew each other in Old Harbor but doubtful. The projects were jammed packed with kids and one had enough problem knowing those in your own grade without knowing the grad in front or below. I went to the Perkins and Andrews and can attest to that.

            AS for your email, I can’t seem to locate it. If you don’t mind you can resend it to uuxq or ooxq @

  2. Add to the mix the tendency of some (many?) in black neighborhoods to believe that “snitches get stitches,” and it’s no wonder as to the low rate of solved murders there.

    By the way, a BPD detective told me a while back that it’s a myth that perps don’t snitch eventually; when their own hides are at stake, they sing. But that’s AFTER they are IDed and brought in for questioning.

    1. GOK:

      The BPD detective was right — when people get jammed in they are anxious to put another on the griddle. The problem is too often they’ll offer up anyone they can think of rather than the culprit.

      Living in neighborhoods where the brutes rule is very difficult. The BPD should come up with a saturation policy. Those parts of neighborhoods which are under assault should have a heavy and obvious presence of police officers. I know the civil libertarians will scream but the good people in those neighborhoods will breath easier. One big problem with our society is those civil libertarians and the judges don’t live in terror as some of those people have to do.

      1. Matt,
        I disagree that Connolly didn’t know Whitey as a kid.(or at least know OF him) Obviously, I have no way of knowing for sure, but I know from my own experiences growing up in the same area during pre-cell phone era, that word got around pretty fast as to who was who, and who was “trouble,”, what people were up to, even and especially the older kids, etc….I think the grapevine was actually more robust back in the day, than it is now. If Connolly is prone to embellishment, maybe the ice-cream story was made up to justify his knowing (and obviously idolizing) Whitey. Connolly stuck his own neck out there so, so far, putting everything on the line for Whitey. Why???? What would motivate a man with such a unique combination of street smarts, education, and law-enforcement smarts to become so manipulated and beholden to one man??? In the proven absence of Connolly’s corruption, and murder culpability, the question still remains. Why?

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