Officials: Increasing gun violence linked to illegal guns, anti-police rhetoric and frivolous bail

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BOSTON, MA – According to U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, various cities within the state of Massachusetts has seen an increase in gun-related violence as high as 50%, following a roundtable discussion that was held on October 21st.

This discussion involved several police chiefs from around the state, who injected their experiences regarding policing and crime within their respective jurisdictions.

From what Lelling and others discussed, suspected influences to these alarming increases in violence could be the hindrances to normal court operations via the pandemic, anti-police sentiments in recent months and also violent offenders being released on bail in higher frequencies.

One of the main goals of this roundtable discussion was to double-down on attempts to participate in the program announced by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2019 called “Project Guardian,” which is a program aimed at strengthening collaborations between federal, state and local agencies to address gun-related crime and violence.

A spokeswoman for Lelling highlighted some of the cities within Massachusetts that are being impacted by increase in gun violence.

In Boston, non-fatal shootings have increased by 33% whereas gun deaths are up 58%. In Brockton, shootings overall are up by 35%.

Worcester has seen an increase in shootings by 53% and Springfield’s shootings are up by 60%.

In New Bedford, shootings within the city have reached an alarming increase of 237%.

When examining these various upticks across these cities, Lelling suspects that violent offenders have essentially aren’t scared of catching the pandemic anymore as would-be miscreants once were – meaning that confinement in jails doesn’t have that added deterrent any longer.

Lelling also stated that criminals seem to not even be dissuaded by police either:

“I think people are less afraid of COVID and less afraid of law enforcement. Offenders are often undeterred by state court prosecutions.”

The remarking of state court prosecutions is a reference to how sometimes state-level sentencing pales in comparison when looking at the sentencing guidelines afforded to cases tried in the federal courts.

During the roundtable discussion, the police chiefs in attendance essentially concurred that they were able to enjoy the spoils of the pandemic’s effect on violent crime – but by the time the summer hit – things went awry, as mentioned by Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes:

“Pretty much a lid that was kept on the so-called kettle for quite a bit. But in July and August … that lid just exploded off the top.”

The city of Chelsea is among the cities that has seen significant jumps in gun violence, despite being a city that only hosts about 40,000 residents.

During a typical year, the city may see as many as 18 shootings – but the city of Chelsea managed to see 18 shootings in just a two-month period in 2020.

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Another facet that seems to be impacting gun violence across Massachusetts is the amalgamation of untraceable ghost guns and weapons obtained out of state funneling into Massachusetts by way of “straw buyers” – basically someone with a clean background purchasing a weapon for someone prohibited from owning a firearm.

Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl C. Clapprood stated that the “gunplay recently has been horrific in Springfield,” which seems consistent with the increased shootings and seized firearms conveyed by a spokesman for the department.

This year alone, officers from the Springfield Police Department have seized 135 illegal firearms – 52 of them being high-capacity weapons, two AK-47s and three untraceable ghost guns.

While those are a commendable number of illegal weapons removed from the streets, the city has still accrued 15 fatal shootings and 56 non-fatal shootings in 2020.

SPD spokesman Ryan Walsh also said it’s not just the numerous illegal weapons causing this increased violence, but also alleged firearm offenders attaining pretrial releases:

“There’s been a spike in gun violence in cities across the country and the Commonwealth since March. Here in Springfield we can attribute that in part to violent repeat offenders being released before their trials after being arrested with a firearm.”

The city of Bost has accumulated 39 fatal shootings in 2020 so far, versus the 24 fatal shootings that happened throughout all of 2019, according to Boston Police Commissioner William Gross.

There have also been a total of 184 non-fatal shootings within Boston this year as well.

What Commissioner Gross’ noted is that the peak of the pandemic having influenced bail considerations due to virus concerns resulted in violent offenders getting released frivolously:

“COVID-19 did not help our numbers at all.”

But another critical area that U.S. Attorney Lelling spoke on is that attitudes toward law enforcement have taken a nosedive ever since the death of George Floyd.

While the matter may have occurred in a completely different state, the incident has had national ramifications:

“The anti-police rhetoric has gotten completely out of control.”

Overall, illegal guns combined with widespread disdain for police and a pandemic that has influenced bail considerations has resulted in tumultuous outcomes within these cities.

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