“Toward a Safer Community”
Written by: Elisabeth Carse & Sarah Salerno, Sociology students concentrating in Criminology
On Sunday evening, February 26th, Emmanuel College students and Professor Janese Free were joined for dinner by Mr. Ed Gaskin. The dinner served as a forum for students to engage in a discussion with Mr. Gaskin, who is a community activist, author and executive director of Greater Grove Hall Main Streets in Dorchester, MA. Additionally, Mr. Gaskin was the chief operating officer of Boston’s TenPoint Coalition and played a role in the “Boston Miracle” – an unprecedented drop in youth violence and homicides in the 1990s, including a period of more than two years when there were no teenage homicide victims in the city. The Boston Miracle involved collaboration between sometimes conflicting constituencies, such as the police, social workers, religious leaders and community members.
In addition, Professor Free discussed her recent research project on “streetworkers.” (Streetworkers aim to connect at-risk youth to social services, jobs, school and other pro-social activities and work to disrupt gang involvement and community violence. They are often from the neighborhoods they serve and have backgrounds similar to their clients, but are choosing now to give back to their communities by helping high-risk youth.) Professor Free and a student research assistant, Jenna Wilson ’18, interviewed 48 streetworkers in the city of Boston regarding the rewards and challenges of their jobs, their lived experiences, their relationships with their clients and the strategies streetworkers employ to intervene and interrupt violence. The purpose of the dinner was to learn more about these important issues before attending a lecture and panel discussion the following night at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum entitled, “Toward a Safer Community.”
On Monday evening, February 27th, some students from the Criminology concentration within the Sociology department, as well as other Emmanuel students, joined Prof. Free and Mr. Gaskin at the John F. Kennedy Library for a panel discussion featuring Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans, Revs. Jeffery Brown (founding member of the TenPoint Coalition and founder of RECAP (Rebuilding Every Community Around Peace)) and Mark Scott (founding member of the TenPoint Coalition and member of Boston’s Streetworker Team). All three are nationally known experts and consultants on reducing violence via relationships and collaborations among the police, religious leaders and community members. Evans, Scott and Brown spoke about the successes and challenges Boston has faced historically regarding youth violence, gang involvement and police-community relations and the progress that is being made through community policing and collaborations. Rev. Scott spoke on the importance of streetworkers in this process and their key role in interrupting violence and supporting high-risk youth. The Boston model of collaboration, community policing and violence reduction is now being replicated in several cities in hopes of reducing youth violence and homicide rates across the United States.