Ethnic Groups, Police Confront Each Other in the Hub Everybody's Talking about Race Friction, the Politics of Patronage, White Police, Black Gangs, and a Record Murder Rate on City Streets - a Letter from Boston

By Lawrence J. Goodrich, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 5, 1990 | Go to article overview

Ethnic Groups, Police Confront Each Other in the Hub Everybody's Talking about Race Friction, the Politics of Patronage, White Police, Black Gangs, and a Record Murder Rate on City Streets - a Letter from Boston


Lawrence J. Goodrich, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


A recent issue of the Boston Herald, the local Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, featured none of the usual large Page 1 photos.

Instead, it printed a list of names of the 133 murder victims up to that date in the city of Boston in 1990.

A day later, the list of victims had grown to 136, breaking the city's record for the number of murders in one year. The previous record was 135, set in 1973; now the new figure stands at 137.

It's not New York, of course: Police there estimated Monday that more than 2,000 people have been murdered there this year, also a record. But the city of Boston has a population of only about 600,000 compared with more than 7.3 million in the Big Apple. Outraged Hispanics, outraged police

All last week Boston was buzzing over the death of 19-year-old Hector Morales, who was killed after he opened fire on two policemen with a sawed-off shotgun. He wounded both officers before he was shot.

The Hispanic community was outraged. Some witnesses claimed that the officers had continued to fire at Mr. Morales after he was down and allegedly pleading for his life. Hispanics say it fits a pattern of police harassment and brutality against them.

This outraged the police in turn. They say the officers barely escaped with their lives and continued to fire only in self-defense.

The controversy followed on the heels of the revelation that Kimberly Rae Harbour, whose body was found in a field near a city housing project a few weeks back, had been brutally raped and murdered, allegedly by a gang of about eight "wilding" youths.

The black community reacted angrily to the news that police had kept silent about the brutality Ms. Harbour suffered while they gathered enough information to arrest the alleged attackers - all black, as was the victim. Some said the police should have warned the neighborhood that a group of toughs was on the loose.

The police responded that their silence was necessary to the success of the investigation. Reportedly, the youths were running around the housing complex bragging about what they had done.

Boston police say murders committed with guns in the first three months of the year rose 69 percent over the same period last year. The city is awash in illegal weapons. One source in the district attorney's office told me earlier this year that many of the guns are being smuggled into the commonwealth from Georgia, where gun laws are more lax.

Mayor Raymond Flynn and Police Commission Francis Roache have come under heavy criticism for their management of the police and poor police-minority relations. …

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