Guest Op-Ed : We Must Be Willing to Make Long-Term Investments to Address Underlying Problems

Comment by DA Rachael Rollins Regarding the Recent Boston Police Clean Sweep at Mass/Cass in the South End

As I have previously stated, I reject the implication that public safety and public health are mutually exclusive. If we are truly committed to cleaning up our streets, we must also be willing to make the long-term investment in addressing the underlying problems. Substance use disorders, mental illness, and home-lessness are not problems that can simply be “swept” away in order to create the illusion of safety.

These actions, however well-intentioned, have consequences that reverberate throughout our community. We cannot embrace a one-size-fits-all strategy, because the individuals arrested in these sweeps do not always share the same challenges. Some suffer from mental health issues; others are dealing with sub-stance use disorders. Many are homeless. Our approaches cannot be short-sighted or reactionary because the costs – both financial and human – are too high. 

It should not be illegal to exist.  We are “sweeping” people away from the very areas they go to get services, treatment, and help.  To me, that’s cruel.

To be clear, those who engaged in violence will be held accountable.  But many of the people “swept” up did not assault the corrections officer.

I do not have all the answers, but I am committed to asking the right questions. Those directly impacted by the “sweep” need to have a seat at the table, along with our partners in law enforcement, public health, government, and non-profits. Let’s turn these conversations into action. I am proud that on Monday I met with approximately 15 such partners, none of whom were members of law enforcement, all of whom work directly with, or are, the impacted community.

Solving this “problem” will not be easy; this will not be resolved in one night; to suggest otherwise is irresponsible. I am committed to exploring complex solu-tions to these multi-pronged problems.

We need to be thoughtful and deliberate because it’s what the people of Suffolk County deserve.

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