I find this worrisome in a lot of ways.
Boston police are launching a program that will call upon parents in high-crime neighborhoods to allow detectives into their homes, without a warrant, to search for guns in their children's bedrooms.
The program, which is already raising questions about civil liberties, is based on the premise that parents are so fearful of gun violence and the possibility that their own teenagers will be caught up in it that they will turn to police for help, even in their own households.
In the next two weeks, Boston police officers who are assigned to schools will begin going to homes where they believe teenagers might have guns. The officers will travel in groups of three, dress in plainclothes to avoid attracting negative attention, and ask the teenager's parent or legal guardian for permission to search. If the parents say no, police said, the officers will leave.
But Davis said the point of the program, dubbed Safe Homes, is to make streets safer, not to incarcerate people.Right. I'm sure if they get access they won't bother looking anywhere else or for anything else that may not be quite legal. What will that mother in a quandary do if the gun they find happens to have been used in a crime? Or that the kid is hiding it for some one else? That never happens does it.
"This isn't evidence that we're going to present in a criminal case," said Davis, who met with community leaders yesterday to get feedback on the program. "This is a seizing of a very dangerous object. . . ."I understand people's concerns about this, but the mothers of the young men who have been arrested with firearms that I've talked to are in a quandary," he said. "They don't know what to do when faced with the problem of dealing with a teenage boy in possession of a firearm. We're giving them an option in that case."
If officers find a gun, police said, they will not charge the teenager with unlawful gun possession, unless the firearm is linked to a shooting or homicide.
A criminal whose gun is seized can quickly obtain another, said Jorge Martinez, executive director of Project Right, who Davis briefed on the program earlier this week.Interesting perspective. Wonder what would happen if the individual who had the gun was subsequently arrested or found to have another gun.
"There is still an individual who is an impact player who is not going to change because you've taken the gun from the household," he said.
The leads to who to call on are interesting as well.
Police will rely primarily on tips from neighbors. They will also follow tips from the department's anonymous hot line and investigators' own intelligence to decide what doors to knock on. A team of about 12 officers will visit homes in four Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods: Grove Hall, Bowdoin Street and Geneva Avenue, Franklin Hill and Franklin Field, and Egleston Square.Anonymous hotlines are just asking for trouble. Unknown sources of information are problematic in that they allow for lots of abuse by people trying to settle scores.
If drugs are found, it will be up to the officers' discretion whether to make an arrest, but police said modest amounts of drugs like marijuana will simply be confiscated and will not lead to charges.
One of the first to back him was the Rev. Jeffrey L. Brown, cofounder of the Boston TenPoint Coalition, who attended yesterday's meeting.It "empowers" parents, but it doesn't require them to take any responsibility. Wonderful world that Reverend lives in. Though there is a bit on the program that occurred in St. Louis that does at least show that some parents in this situation tried to get more assistance.
"What I like about this program is it really is a tool to empower the parent," he said. "It's a way in which they can get a hold of the household and say, 'I don't want that in my house.' "
St. Louis police reassured skeptics by letting them observe searches, said Robert Heimberger, a retired St. Louis police sergeant who was part of the program.I wonder how this will be handled in Boston. It's not exactly a city known for its clergical support, and I'm thinking that the social workers are probably already overwhelmed with what they are doing now without having extra burden tossed on top.
"We had parents that invited us back, and a couple of them nearly insisted that we take keys to their house and come back anytime we wanted," he said.
But the number of people who gave consent plunged in the next four years, as the police chief who spearheaded the effort left and department support fell, according to a report published by the National Institute of Justice.
Support might also have flagged because over time police began to rely more on their own intelligence than on neighborhood tips, the report said.
Heimberger said the program also suffered after clergy leaders who were supposed to offer help to parents never appeared.
"I became frustrated when I'd get the second, or third, or fourth phone call from someone who said, 'No one has come to talk to me,' " he said. Residents "lost faith in the program and that hurt us."
Boston police plan to hold neighborhood meetings to inform the public about the program. Police are also promising follow-up visits from clergy or social workers, and they plan to allow the same scrutiny that St. Louis did.
Well, good luck to them. Personally, I don't think I'll ever let a cop into my dwelling without a warrant.