Prevent crime, prevent traumas of violence

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley wants those who’ve survived homicide to know she feels their pain.

What’s unclear is whether she feels their fear.

As the State House News reported, Pressley attended a ceremony commemorating the start of Massachusetts’ annual Survivors of Homicide Victims Awareness Month, and announced that she introduced a Congressional resolution to bring the awareness effort to the national level.

“It’s long past time that as survivors, your healing is centered and your needs are met. From grief counseling, to bereavement leave, to financial assistance, Congressional intent is a powerful thing,” Pressley said.

The resolution would designate Nov. 20 through Dec. 20 as an awareness month for the victims of homicide and their families nationwide, as Massachusetts has observed since 2000 when Gov. Paul Cellucci signed a law to create the awareness month in the state.

Pressley noted that recent gun violence in Boston “deepens our resolve to raise awareness and to invest in trauma care.”

How about investing in public safety?

Being supportive of the trauma those who’ve lost loved ones to violence experience is great, and healing efforts are indeed important. But one imagines that these survivors would wish they didn’t need such supports, that their loved ones were alive and well and with them.

“This resolution expresses that Congress sees you, we hear you, and we’re committed to making the investments necessary to ensure that you receive the healing that you deserve,” Pressley said.

A very necessary investment in dealing with Boston’s gun violence would be increasing the number of police officers so that communities can reap the crime-deterring benefits of patrols.

A 2020 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that  “Each additional police officer abates approximately 0.1 homicides. In per capita terms, effects are twice as large for Black versus white victims.”

The people who live in Boston neighborhoods plagued by gun violence are already victims. Imagine the fear of not knowing if your child will be safe on the way to school, or caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting. Or of seeing your own front porch as a danger zone, as shooters fire off rounds without any regard for people on the street, or outside their homes. Or of attending funerals of friends and family members and wondering when someone will put a stop to the madness.

It’s commendable that Pressley and other pols want to ensure homicide survivors have access to trauma healing supports – but working to prevent homicides is crucial.

And for that to happen the police have to be taken off the enemies list. Pressley and other progressives have been proponents of defunding the police as gun violence has spiked in cities around the country.

This is not an either-or situation. We can get behind boosting supports for homicide survivors – as long as we do also do everything we can to get guns and killers off the streets.