Boston police stand outside the cordoned-off house of Martin Richard in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Richard, 8, was killed in the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Three dead. Many maimed, some critically. One shootout that left three parked cars riddled with bullet holes, a street littered with shell casings, and a living room wall and television set pierced by a stray round that came to rest two feet from a baby carriage where an infant was sleeping.

This is not the toll on Boylston Street and in Watertown in the aftermath of the Marathon bombings. It’s the damage sustained in lower-profile neighborhoods of Boston in April, no crueler a month than most for residents who cower far more regularly at the sounds of violence than they do in Watertown and the Back Bay.

We are very particular in this country about the kind of violence that mobilizes us to talk — if not act — about public safety and gun control.

No one set up a command center to brief the press after a radio call of shots fired at Archdale Road in Roslindale at 8:13 p.m. on April 2 despite the barrage of bullets. No national camera crews filmed the shattered television set or interviewed the foster mother about the trauma of a bullet landing so close to the sleeping baby in her care despite the inherent drama and the frequency of shootings in the neighborhood, a fatal one only last Christmas.

The mayor, for once, stayed home.

No talking heads called for an investigation into the source of the lethal weaponry found on April 6 when Boston Housing Authority personnel discovered an unattended child and a cache of loaded firearms in a South End apartment they had been scheduled to inspect for bed bugs. In addition to two guns under a mattress, Boston police reported recovering “a sentry safe under the bed containing several other firearms and 300 rounds of ammunition. A total of five firearms, two with defaced serial numbers and one large capacity firearm.”

But where, we must know, did the Tsarnaev brothers buy those pressure cookers?

We are very particular in this country about the kind of violence that mobilizes us to talk — if not act — about public safety and gun control. The slaughter of little children in a Connecticut elementary school. The carnage in a Colorado movie theater. An assassination attempt at a Tuscon shopping mall. An act of terror at the Boston Marathon.

The more insidious and persistent violence, that spawned by gangs and drugs and poverty and despair, barely registers on the consciousness of those with the good fortune to live outside the battle zone. A 47-page report commissioned by Gov. Deval Patrick on “Urban Violence in the Commonwealth” has been gathering dust since it was issued in 2008. The “prevention, intervention and rehabilitation” programs it prescribes cost money and Patrick has not spent much capital making this a priority on Beacon Hill.

The more insidious and persistent violence, that spawned by gangs and drugs and poverty and despair, barely registers on the consciousness of those with the good fortune to live outside the battle zone.

No public memorials will mark the deaths of a 25-year-old man on April 1 from gunshot wounds sustained the night before on Minden Street in Jamaica Plain or the shooting death of another on Dudley Street in Roxbury on April 17 or the gunshot death of yet a third in a car on Copeland Street in Roxbury on April 20.

Many of these April homicides, and more recent gunshot injuries to three men in Dorchester on April 26 and to two more in the same neighborhood on April 28, merited a brief mention on neighborhood news sites or Universal Hub or The Dorchester Reporter or even The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald. But they provoked no public alarm. They barely registered.

Since January, nine people have been killed and more than 50 maimed by gunfire in this city.

It does not diminish the suffering of any of the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings or the three victims at the finish line or the MIT police officer in Cambridge to note that they were not the only souls to die violently on Boston’s streets in April.


2013 Boston Homicide Victims
View 2013 Boston Homicide Victims in a larger map

Tags: Boston, Boston Marathon Bombings, Crime, Guns, Law, Newtown, Security

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  • AF

    What a great article! Thank you!

  • concerned-citizen


  • Emilyjena

    “insidious and persistent” violence, meet unresponsive and indifferent government. Thanks, Eileen, for clarifying the equation.

  • PeaceBang

    Thank you.

  • Mary Ellen Morrison West

    Thank you!

  • warren

    So why did WBUR leap onto the bombing story pile?

    • Futo Buddy

      with both feet

      • Flo

        Wonderful insightful piece.Thank you,Eileen McNamara. This is getting to be anything but America the Beautiful !

  • sjw81

    world of difference in a cowardly terrorist attack by muslim radicals than persistent crime in a crime persistent neighborhood.

    • Futo Buddy

      whats the difference?

    • hyyh


  • Futo Buddy

    yup its pretty disgusting. Too bad the author here does not know anyone with a radio station that could report on such things. lets talk about the elephant in the room. were any of those shot white? were any of them shot with legally purchased guns? this reminds me of a few months ago when there was a shooting at a texas college. the 24 hour media descended and got all worked up during the noon time hour. it shortly became obvious that it was a case of two black people shooting at each other and it did not even make the 6pm news. if you believed the news you would think only blond haired blue eyed girls were the only people ever abducted or killed.

  • Elisa

    Thank you! I’ve been thinking this ever since the bombings happened.

  • Pantagrool

    The violence *was spawned* by the gangs, drugs, poverty, and despair. But why and how? This has been going on for generations, and no one seems to want to face it head-on. Why are kids coming into kindergarten with 1/3 the vocabulary they should have. Why are kids being raised by a TV and broken households? Where do kids learn that the way to answer an argument is with a fight or a pistol? These are big and deep CULTURAL issues.

  • PaulD

    So what were these fine young gentlemen doing when they got shot? What were they involved with in their lives? How many of them have fathers that are anywhere to be found? It’s interesting that what you describe sounds like Chicago which is a city that’s run in a similar way to Boston.

  • Carolwoleykofizer

    Well said. Thank you.

  • FM-in-Newton

    “YES” to your implied question: “Does anyone report the day-to-day gun deaths?”

    Joe Nocera’s blog in the NY Times has a daily gun report detailing dozens of gun deaths and incidents around the U.S. Here’s one in Matapan on Nocera’s “Daily Gun Report” for Friday March 29th.

    “Two men were shot in the Mattapan section of Boston Thursday evening, one of whom has life-threatening injuries. Read more…”

    Go to and scroll down thru

    > Gun Report for April 5

    > Gun Report for April 4

    > Gun Report for April 3,

    > Etc.

    WBUR could do a great service by setting up a web database showing ALL of Nocera’s entries re-sorted by state and city, rather than by date.

  • jamie

    what a relief to see this……

    but….. also: what about the murder we are committing by the use of drones, killing and maiming innocent people – just as innocent as those in boston? are we not the “terrorists” – it is being done in our name, financed by our taxes…..

  • Garry Armstrong

    Sounds like the author never spent time in a working newsroom where these stories are covered on an EVERYDAY basis!! There is a lot of shared pain, compassion, frustration and muted anger felt by those who work these stories EVERY day. Let the critics walk the streets with the working news media for just a day or two and see if there’s still a rush to judgement on how these tragic stories are covered.

  • samuelpepys

    Thank you for making an important point publicly–on the site of a radio station fully implicated in the blindly heartless practices you deplore! It also be worth pointing out out that on April 15th in six cities in Iraq a total of 55 innocent people were killed by IEDs. And that thanks to the criminal negligence of everyone involved, from factory owners to the West police, who countenanced 11 reported burglaries of anhydrous ammonia in the last decade, to the governor, Dept. of Public Safety and legislature of Texas, 14 people died and a town was ruined on April 17. The problem you point to is systematic and all-encompassing in our society, and the forms that violence takes are very many. Gun control and the development of less murderous video games would help many people. Controlling our government’s addiction to waging ideological wars and wars for oil and lithium ( in far-off countries would help many more. Consideration of the human costs of unfettered “business” (what many define as the whole nation’s business)…well, I guess that’s the impossible dream.

  • ndr39

    Thank you for this excellent article! The families of most of these victims of violence could also benefit from a million dollars.

  • Kate Ellis

    powerful and yet how do we fix this universal and sad aspect to our human nature?

  • Imran Nasrullah

    The day after the Boston bombings, a bomb blast in Karachi killed more than 10 people, and it hardly made a blip in the news. I think we should take the time and energy to acknowledge the suffering of people across the globe who don’t have the extraordinary people and resources we do here. The sad thing is, victims of both blasts (and others across the Middle East and Asia) are victims of the same geopolitical maelstrom.

  • LeftShooter

    Here’s another Comm. of MA report from the same year (2010) titled “Analysis of MA Firearms Related Offenses” wherein it details that of 26,723 firearms offense charged over the 3-year 2006-2008 period, only 15% resulted in a term of commitment/incarceration, while 8% of charges resulted in a term of probation. About 63% resulted in either dismissal (44%) or not prosecuted (19%).

    “Catch and Release” may be a laudable practice for sport fishermen, but for firearms offenses it does very little to enhance public safety or to discourage future firearm crime and violence. I can only wonder how many of the assailants in the crimes mentioned in Ms. McNamara’s article already had prior arrests for firearms offenses. I hope she continues to follow the April 6th BHA incident she described to see whether any prosecutions result.

    As a firearms instructor and responsible gun owner and citizen, I have a vested interest in reducing gun violence. Crimes not being prosecuted like those of the above report are why I think it is said that we need to enforce the laws that are already on the books before creating new ones. (My statement is not about background checks—I support smart and efficient ones without registration (online anyone?) and I wish MA would please share the names of those with disqualifying mental health issues with the FBI’s NICS background check system. MA currently does not and is one of 14 or so states that don’t.)

    I hope others will join me in encouraging our elected officials to redouble their efforts to prosecute those who make the poor choice to use a firearm in a criminal act and also request that MA share the appropriate mental health information so that anyone selling a firearm in MA (MA already mandates background checks for all transactions) can do so without worrying whether the purchaser has a disqualifying mental issue.

  • J__o__h__n

    WBUR needs to devote round the clock coverage to this until they are in custody.

  • candace

    WBUR and public radio in general followed the media sensationalistic fixation on this horrible, horrible but relatively average act of violence (as cited by data points below). I depend on, no I LOVE, WBUR — for it’s diverse and imaginative talk radio shows. After this week, I decided to get out of town — at least for the summer — take a job on a horse farm in VA. Just to get away from the news.