Recent attacks by juveniles on restaurant patrons, pedestrians, shoppers and bystanders yield one conclusion: The kids are not all right.
Neither is progressive lawmakers’ response to the growing number of incidents.
As the Herald reported, two 13-year-old children were arraigned earlier this month and charged in connection to April incidents in which youngsters were reportedly attempting to buy alcohol at downtown restaurants and then breaking the windows when refused, to group beating a woman reportedly because she was wearing braids as she walked in Downtown Crossing, to punching a McDonald’s employee in the face in Roxbury.
At the time, Mayor Michelle Wu said the city was looking to put “accountability measures” in place to give young people the support they need to prevent future instances of violence.
“These are children who need support and services and they’re connected to adults who also need some accountability,” Wu said.
Wu’s response was similar to what she said following the November 2021 assault on a Henderson School principal, which left the woman unconscious. That incident was “an incredibly horrific, tragic situation.”
“It points to the need for us to really be investing in our young people, in our school systems, in the supports that are necessary,” Wu said.
The concept of “our young people” taking responsibility for their actions is notably absent from Wu’s remarks following acts of violence by young people. They are the victims of an unjust, inequitable society, one that has apparently robbed them of the ability to not punch someone in the face because they feel like it.
The message given to the young alleged attackers: You can get away with anything, it’s not your fault.
The message received by the actual victims of violence: Terribly sorry, but you’re on your own.
So it comes as no surprise that the violence continues. This week, Boston Police responded to an assault and battery call at Macy’s in Downtown Crossing. A woman told officers that a “young black male in a hooded sweatshirt” came up behind her outside the store and hit her in the face with a shoe, according to the police report.
A sergeant told the responding officers that the group accused in this call were the same group from multiple calls earlier in the day that they were “disturbing customers and being a hindrance to Macy’s staff.”
Another person then reported one of the group had jumped on his back. When questioned, the accused jumper allegedly told the police that his friends were encouraging him to “mess with people”
One child was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, to wit a shod foot, and the second was charged with two counts of assault and battery. Both are heading to Boston Juvenile Court.
During her campaign for mayor, Wu’s education plan called for “Ending the criminalization of students.”
But what do you do when children are committing criminal acts?
The 2018 state criminal justice reform legislation took children under 12 out of the criminal justice system. The idea is that schools, social services and parents are the ones to tackle juvenile crime.
It’s 2022, and we’ve seen a rise in violence and guns in schools, and random attacks around the city. It’s unlikely that the Wu administration will take a firmer hand in dealing with violent youth. But actions, and the lack thereof, have consequences.
How can Boston bounce back economically from a pandemic if there are places deemed unsafe around the city for shopping, dining or visiting?