To reduce street violence, prevent illegal drug distribution and improve the quality of life for its residents, the city of Brockton, Mass., was part of the statewide summer safety initiative funded by the Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. The result was an increase in violent offender arrests, a reduction in the number of illegal firearms on the street and an increase in youth programming services, according to Darren Duarte, director of communications for the Brockton Police Department.
“By engaging in proactive street enforcement, we prevented, deterred and disrupted street crimes, including firearm offenses and drug distribution,” he said.
The Summer Safety Initiative
Throughout the summer of 2022, various Massachusetts State Police investigative and patrol units conducted joint operations with five local police departments, including Boston, Brockton, Lawrence, Holyoke and Springfield. Supported by $500,000 in JAG funding, their mission was to enhance community safety by focusing on the enforcement of impact players responsible for drug distribution, firearm violations, street violence and human trafficking.
Several of the Commonwealth’s district attorneys also received nearly $1 million in total JAG funding to address community-based criminal activity related to gang violence, illegal firearms and narcotics. Grant-funded programs focused on prevention, intervention, diversion and enforcement efforts, particularly during the summer and early fall when activity is at its peak.
“State and local law enforcement are instruments in ensuring the safety and welfare of our communities, and it is crucial that public safety officials share a collaborative focus and approach in their continued efforts to reduce and prevent crime,” said then-Gov. Charlie Baker when assessing the effectiveness of the initiative last October. “I commend this state and local partnership and the collective work to ensure the safety of all Massachusetts residents.”
Based on an assessment of crime data submitted by the local municipalities to MSP crime analysts, the JAG-funded summer initiative successfully reduced violent crime and increased overall public safety. From July through September 2022, specialized MSP units, in collaboration with local law enforcement, made approximately 274 arrests and issued 51 criminal summonses. This effort also resulted in the recovery of 71 illegally possessed firearms and the seizure of nearly 41,365 grams of heroin and fentanyl, 2,895 grams of cocaine and crack, and 3,996 grams of marijuana.
A local lens
The city of Brockton is located in Plymouth County, Mass., and has a population of 105,643 (2020 census). As the 12th most dangerous city in the commonwealth, it has a crime rate of 18.44 per 1,000 people, and the city has been working to decrease violent crimes over the last few years after it spiked at 1,960 in 2020 (up from 782 in 2019). In 2021, violent crimes in the city decreased to 1,841, but with the $30,000 in grant money received through the summer safety initiative, the city felt it could do even better.
Duarte said the Brockton Police Department initiated investigations of priority impact players deemed most violent, influential and detrimental to the community in which they reside or operate. They also conducted directed patrols in high-crime areas during times determines by intelligence-led policing to be the most problematic. Their detectives ran undercover and confidential informant operations while monitoring and investigating social media posts related to violence, firearm offenses, narcotic distribution, gang activity and feuds. And the police force even performed controlled purchases of guns and narcotics from several suspects and their associates.
“As a result of these activities, our detectives were able to author and execute search warrants to seize contraband (weapons and drugs) and to obtain criminal intelligence and evidence, prioritizing warrants for violent crimes,” he said.
Compared to 2021, Brockton saw a 100% decrease in the number of gun-related homicides for July, August and September 2022. The city also experienced a 17% decrease in aggravated assaults. Duarte said concerted, proactive law enforcement efforts have positively impacted firearm-related crimes and quality of life issues in the city of Brockton and the numbers speak for themselves.
“As a result of the summer initiative, we have made 62 arrests, seized eight firearms, 621 grams of heroin/fentanyl, 533 grams of cocaine and crack cocaine, and recovered nearly $42,639 in U.S. currency,” he said.
While Duarte is quick to point out that the grant money was a key reason the summer safety initiative was such a solid success, the partnership between Brockton PD, the Massachusetts State Police and other agencies played a big part as well.
“Through collaboration and mutual trust among law enforcement partners and community members, small- and medium-sized communities should be able to obtain results that positively impact their jurisdictions,” he said.