Religion and the Boston Miracle:
The Effect of Black Ministry
on Youth Violence
Jenny Berrien, Omar McRoberts
and Christopher Winship 1
Despite concerns over the practicality and political expediency of "faith- based" anti-poverty programs, the success of organizations such as the Ten Point Coalition suggests that social welfare programs that lack the depth dimensions of faith may be inadequate.
DURING THE 1990S, MANY LARGE CITIES IN THE U.S. saw dramatic declines in their homicide rates. 2 Boston's rate of homicide has dropped further than has that of any other large city, a full 80 percent between 1990 and 1999, creating what is now termed the "Boston Miracle." Perhaps more impressive is that Boston has achieved this precipitous decline in homicides through a process involving a unique partnership of the city's police and probation departments with community leaders. This strong partnership has helped establish broad support for police actions. This is in sharp contrast to New York City, where the declines in homicide rates have also been impressive, a 72 percent drop over the same eight year period, but where there have been open and hostile conflicts between the police and community leaders over the methods that police have used to reduce crime. 3
In Boston, the key community group working with the police has been a set of black churches known as the Ten Point Coalition. The coalition consists of more than 40 churches, though only three ministers, Reverends Jeffrey Brown, Ray Hammond, and Eugene Rivers, pursue its agenda on a daily basis. The coalition's major contribution, we have argued, has been to change the relationship between the police and Boston's inner city communities from one of open antagonism to one of partnership. This has allowed Boston to succeed in substantially reducing homicide rates without imposing a "police state," as some people fear has happened in New York City. Specifically, we suggest that the coalition