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Safety in Our Communities: Being Firm, Fair and Forward Thinking



My Vision for Our Future

I see Massachusetts as an intact community, where individuals and families see their stake in their neighbors' dreams and struggles as well as in their own. Personal safety and the security of one's property are indispensable elements of an intact community. In addressing crime, my administration will be firm, fair and forward thinking.

Response to crime must above all be firm. I see 1,000 new officers on the streets to restore and enhance our community patrol ranks. Well-trained and well-equipped officers across the Commonwealth, especially in our cities, will be assigned to neighborhoods, to build relationships with residents, clergy, youth workers and shop owners, better enabling law enforcement both to solve and prevent crime.

I see an end to the trafficking of illegal guns into Massachusetts from neighboring and other states, through better coordination and cooperation among state, federal and local law enforcement.

I also see well-run and professional courts, with special drug and gun sessions, so that suspects can be tried promptly and fairly and, if convicted, sentenced with certainty. Victims of crime will also receive the compassion and support they deserve, and witnesses the protection they need to encourage them to cooperate.

Because prevention is the best and cheapest form of public protection, Massachusetts will lead in crime prevention. I envision a Massachusetts where we all work together — families, educators, police, local courts, religious and community leaders, state and local government officials — to stop crime before it starts. I see adults re-engaged at all levels to help young people turn away from a culture of violence and irresponsibility, and a government that is working to expand job and after-school opportunities so that young people have a reason to hope. Our school days will be longer. After-school enrichment programs will be routine. Both private and public service and volunteerism will be common. By intervening early on with our children we will better educate them about alternatives to violence, hate, racism, crime, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Men and women who have served their time will emerge from prison with basic education, free of addiction, with the skills and support sufficient to get them started again on a path back into productive society and away from crime.

Working together with youth, parents, civic leaders, schools and churches we will, once again, create a community-wide effort to protect and uphold the law. I see communities where even minor crimes are not tolerated, where Government is proactive, and where equal protection and fair treatment are leadership values.

Our Current Reality

Too many of us today don't feel safe. Crime is on the rise across the Commonwealth. Tough talk from today's office-holders substitutes for smart action, and we are making little progress.

Homicides in Boston hit a ten-year high last year. Shootings in Boston for the first half of 2006 are up 75% compared to the same period in 2005, and murders are up 32%. From 2004 to 2005, murders in Boston rose almost 20% and violent crime rose more than 8%.

The surge is not unique to Boston. Shootings have doubled in Worcester from 2001 to 2005. From 2004 to 2005, robberies increased 26% in Lowell and 14% in Springfield. Across the state, with police departments suffering from severe budget cuts, and crime reduction and violence prevention programs in decline, crime is increasing in many Massachusetts neighborhoods.

Handguns are far too readily available to inner-city juveniles and felons. Guns sold illegally account for five out of six guns recovered in crimes. Some 60% of the guns used in crimes in Massachusetts are trafficked in from neighboring states that have much weaker gun laws. Meanwhile, our gun violence reduction initiatives, once nationally-recognized, have been allowed to erode.

Drugs — and the criminal element associated with them — are widely available to our children. Oxycontin has become a severe problem among teenagers across the Commonwealth and has driven the overdose rate up among that population by over 50%. Heroin use is on the rise as the drug price goes down and potency goes up. With a scarcity of after-school programs and work opportunities, we are losing too many kids. Too many of our children are victims of and witnesses to violence, drug-related and otherwise.

Our criminal justice and correctional system often fails us, too. Many inmates leave Massachusetts prisons and houses of correction more dangerous than when they went in. Eighty percent of inmates have a history of substance abuse, yet there are virtually no substance abuse treatment programs in our prisons and jails. With drastic cutbacks in opportunities for education, employment training and other meaningful preparation for eventual release, ex-inmates return to their neighborhoods destined to fail. In 2005, 41% of inmates who were released from prison had no post-release supervision. With so many prisoners left without any support network once released, it is no surprise that recidivism rates are high. Of all inmates released from prison in 1999, 51% were back in prison by 2002.

Tough talk has substituted for smart action for too long. With smart action we can begin to rectify the problems that are plaguing every city and town of the Commonwealth, and threatening the well-being of far too many women, children, people of color, the poor and the powerless — those who are disproportionately the victims of crime.

Closing the Gap

As Governor, I will replace rhetoric with action on the following fronts:

* Stronger Partnerships. Working with the Attorney General, I will convene an ongoing Anti-Crime Council to include local mayors, district attorneys, police and law enforcement professionals, clergy, non-profit service providers, academics, legislators and youth workers, together with Federal officials and officials from neighboring states, to develop a comprehensive Public Safety Action Plan and specific implementation steps. The Council will produce coordinated law enforcement including strategies for intercepting gun and drug trafficking as well as for early intervention and prevention.

* Expanding Community Policing. Staffing police departments sufficiently to enable walking patrols, so that officers become a presence in and familiar with neighborhoods, is a strategy that works. With the help of a specific state appropriation, my administration will put 1,000 new police officers on the streets. Local officials will have the flexibility to implement the plan in the way that assures success in their communities. In addition, I will advocate for increased federal funding of the "COPS" program.

* End Gang and Gun Violence. The resurgence of gang violence in Massachusetts must be stopped and will be in my administration. In addition to a renewed commitment to community policing, we will

o restore the law enforcement, public health and community-based strategies that worked in the 1990s and support the Urban Violence Reduction Initiative undertaken by several urban mayors;
o revive the coordination between state and local police and federal law enforcement throughout the region to attack illegal gun trafficking into Massachusetts at the source;
o limit gun purchases in Massachusetts to one firearm per month;
o ensure that private sellers such as those at gun shows are subjected to the same reviews and checks as licensed dealers;
o require background checks of purchasers at gun shows and from private dealers; and
o strengthen the ability of prosecutors to protect witnesses of gang violence.

To ensure safe schools for students and teachers, we will renew our commitment to conflict resolution and peer mediation programs that help dramatically reduce violence in schools by offering peaceful alternatives to resolving disputes.

* Prevent Terrorism and Improve Emergency Preparedness. Preventing a terrorist attack must become a higher priority and better coordination is the key. State law enforcement agencies will share critical intelligence with their local and federal counterparts, and will develop disaster response, emergency evacuation and coordinated communications plans cooperatively. This is the smartest way to strengthen the defenses of our people and critical infrastructures, and to ensure homeland security.

* Support Youth Initiatives. First, we must focus on identifying and prosecuting the small percentage of young people who commit the vast majority of violent juvenile crime. To do so, we have to stop treating the juvenile justice system and its professionals as second class citizens and start bringing together the range of dedicated DYS, police, probation and prosecution and community-based social and human services needed to both punish and reform youthful offenders. Then, for the benefit of all kids, we will create new or expanded after-school opportunities, including enrichment programs and supervised activities in the public schools. Summer and after-school job and volunteer opportunities should also be expanded so that young people can experience the dignity and responsibility that comes with honest work. Evidence shows that providing these opportunities to youth helps to lower the drop-out rate and reduce the number of young people who commit crime.

* Zero Tolerance for Domestic and Sexual Violence. As part of its charge, my Anti-Crime Council will devise model initiatives to prevent, report, intervene in and prosecute domestic and sexual violence, and to support victims and families. We will create a comprehensive network in the Commonwealth that combines local police departments, the courts, victim advocates, community-based agencies, the faith community, schools, state agencies, and the media so victims of these crimes can come forward and find justice, and above all break the cycle of intergenerational violence.

* Improve Law Enforcement Training. Today's law enforcement officers face more challenges than ever. With the rise in gang violence, illegal guns and drug trafficking, terrorists and biohazard threats, this is the wrong time to starve local and state law enforcement of training resources. We will equip these men and women with the most comprehensive professional training and the best quality equipment possible so they can meet the growing challenges of their job adequately, while also respecting the civil rights and liberties of us all.

* Reform Corrections and Supervise Re-Entry. For the sake of both cost containment and public safety, we have to refocus our corrections system on the dual tasks of punishment and rehabilitation. My administration will ensure that correctional professionals have the power to manage their facilities; that corrections policies and sentencing practices are modified, consistent with security and safety, to allow effective classification and preparation for re-entry; that inmates are prepared - through skills training, education and substance abuse treatment - to leave prison less dangerous than when they went in, and that they are effectively supervised upon release on probation or parole; that corrections, parole and probation officers are accountable, free from politics and fully supported; that the serious and unique needs of women in corrections are addressed; and that the mental health and health care challenges facing people in the corrections system get the support they need.

* Expand Economic Opportunity. The best and cheapest form of public protection is prevention. The best way to prevent street and violent crime of any kind is to ensure that everyone has a job and economic opportunity and a stake in our society and communities. My economic plan will create an expanding economy and envisions greater public and private investment in skills and job training, with programs and centers serving as small business incubators.

* Model Public Integrity. Public confidence in our institutions and leaders, public and private, is low. Where money and power intersect, poor leadership and bad policy have flourished. We will assure independent, professional oversight of large public expenditures, such as the Big Dig. We will also encourage a greater emphasis on prosecution of corporate corruption and malfeasance by strengthening our white-collar crime laws and sentences.

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