Young attackers strike again in Boston Common, ages of alleged perps make combatting string of violence difficult, authorities say
There’s been a new chapter in the ongoing saga of children violently run amok in the city of Boston, and authorities say the ages of the alleged perpetrators are complicating the response they can take.
Police were dispatched to Boston Common shortly after 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Two women claim to have been attacked by five children, the apparent leader a girl who stood in at a slim 5-foot-3 and “well known to Officers as she has been terrorizing unsuspecting citizens of Downtown Boston,” according to the police report.
At least one of the recent string of cases of alleged juvenile violence was filed as a hate crime, but this one was not.
“Why you be talking (expletive)?” the girl yelled at one of the women woman before allegedly throwing a punch at the woman’s face. The woman’s glasses were knocked to the ground, which the girl allegedly stomped on before hurling more punches.
The woman had told the children to behave after they allegedly hurled curses at a woman who was walking through the park with her baby and young daughter.
While at least one minor was summonsed for delinquency charges of assault and battery and destruction of property, according to the report, the age of the alleged ringleader prevented them from pressing formal charges against her.
“It’s not an easy problem to address because they can’t be arrested … because they’re too young,” Suffolk County DA Kevin Hayden told the Herald earlier in the week. “We’re all trying to work together to figure out how to get some help and some services for the kids.”
Under 2018 state criminal reform legislation, authorities can’t arrest or prosecute children under the age of 12 and have limited options for detaining anyone under 14.
Hayden said Friday that his office fully supports the law, but that the law means the “primary responsibility for preventing these attacks instead falls on city, state and community agencies.”
“Complaints have been issued against the older juveniles identified in these attacks,” Hayden wrote in a statement. “We stand ready to work with all community and government partners to address this urgent issue.”
Mayor Michelle Wu on Friday said “there is never an excuse for violence,” but asked for “appropriate respect of the privacy that (the children are) owed as young people.”
“It is also important to look at the root causes here,” she added, saying that her office is “working closely” with agencies and stakeholders, including families, public safety agencies, schools, and others throughout the city and state to get the “young people get the support that they need.”
She said that her office is “making sure there are accountable mechanisms in place” to ensure the safety of residents and visitors.
She didn’t elaborate on the specifics of what those mechanisms are and her office did not return a set of questions the Herald sent on Saturday.
Wu attributed the rise in violence in part to the “trauma of the pandemic” translating into mental health challenges.
The police have increased patrols in areas affected by violence downtown in recent weeks and community groups are also working to address the issue.
Roughly 200 people attended a virtual Chinatown community meeting to call for more efforts to combat the violence.
And the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District is actively connecting with affected business owners and property owners “to share what we know, and hear their questions, concerns and ideas,” Tucker Husband, the organization’s safety and risk assessment senior manager told the Herald, and connecting with youth-serving organizations to work on the problem “from a social services perspective.”