Walsh decries Boston violence, says coronavirus is making it worse

Mayor Martin Walsh again decried the ongoing street violence in Boston, appealing to families as he said city efforts are hampered by the coronavirus crisis.

He called on “parents and grandparents” to reach out to the city about any young person they’re worried about, and that they should do so “without fear of judgment or punishment.”

This comes a day after two teens were shot to death in Boston, and another seriously wounded, the latest outburst of street violence that’s been at a boiling point for the past few weeks.

“Violence of any kind is unacceptable,” Walsh said. “When young people are the victims it is especially devastating.”

Walsh said his administration is taking a “coordinated strategy” including the police department, the city’s street teams, and his Offices of Public Safety and Health and Human Services.

“Organizations are working around the clock to reach young people who are at risk,” Walsh said.

The mayor said he’s seen no correlation to recent cuts to the police overtime budget — which have come at the request of activists — and crime at this point.

“But as we move forward, if we see hotspots continue to stay consistent throughout the summer and into the fall and the winter, then we’re going to have very different conversations — at that point I’ll come back and talk to the people of Boston about a need for increased investment in our policing,” Walsh said.

The mayor tied some of the issues back to the coronavirus pandemic, saying it heavily limits the ability of officials to get out into Boston’s neighborhoods and hold positive events. He also pointed to elements that have been more difficult in the COVID era, like jobs programs and services meant to reintegrate people being released from prison.

“A lot of our tools that we were using in years past aren’t available — and that’s an issue,” Walsh said.

The mayor in his press conference on Tuesday slammed the federal government policing intervention in protests in Portland as a “political ploy” by President Trump. Walsh said he signed a letter urging hearings on the federal law enforcement that showed up in the city without its mayor’s request.

Additionally, Walsh in the press conference said the city is opening up two public swimming pools — one in the North End and the other in Charlestown. The pools had been closed due to the coronavirus, and when they open up will do so at 40%. People will have to go online to book time slots for the pools, and people will have to abide social-distancing rules and wear masks at all times except while in the water.

Walsh also announced a “mobile testing team” that will rotate around the city every two weeks, going to areas with less COVID-19 testing. It will start at the Jackson/Mann K-8 School in Allston before moving on. This program is in partnership with the East Boston Community Health Center.

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