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Boston Uses Effective Approach In Combatting Juvenile Crime

By Blaine Harden
The Washington Post

It was a squabble over somebody else's bicycle. Cassius Love, age 16, went out with a friend to confront two teen-age rivals on a tenement-lined street in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. Love was greeted with the business end of a .22-caliber rifle.

"Lace them," Ronny Elliot told Michael McAffee, who did as instructed, shooting Love six times. The boy died at a nearby hospital.

There is nothing very remarkable about how this murder occurred. More than 70 Boston youngsters had been killed in similarly senseless circumstances in the previous three years. What is remarkable, though, is when this murder took place.

Love was killed on July 10, 1995. Since that day, not one juvenile has been shot to death in Boston and only one teen-ager has been murdered - a stabbing death this month. By comparison, 70 juveniles have been murdered in the District of Columbia in that time period, 24 have been murdered in Richmond and 69 have been killed in Baltimore.

In the past two years and three months, Boston has devised a highly effective way to keep juveniles from killing each other.

Boston demands that police and district attorneys act, at times, like worried parents. Working with teachers, they search out youngsters who skip school or whose grades have nose-dived. They provide them with counseling, mentoring, after-school jobs or send social workers to their homes.

To those who reject an outstretched hand, the city delivers a clenched fist.

As Congress and state legislatures across the country rush to pass laws giving prosecutors authority to try more and younger juveniles as adults, what is notable about Boston's approach to juvenile crime is that putting teen-agers away in adult prisons or even in juvenile detention is only a small part of the prevention package.