Mayor Menino, Boston Foundation join to launch youth anti-violence initiative, ‘StreetSafe Boston’

Multi-year $26M public-private partnership builds on ‘Boston Miracle’ heritage to cut violent crime in city neighborhoods

December 17, 2008

Boston –The Boston Foundation, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the Boston Police Department and a broad partnership of leaders from the city, the private and civic sectors, and organizations that serve Boston neighborhoods today announced the launch of an ambitious $26 million multi-year strategy to cut violent crime among 16 to 24-year-olds in Boston. The initiative focuses on five neighborhoods where a significant percentage of the youth homicide, assaults and gun violence has occurred.

The strategy includes two parts. The first will train and deploy a total of 25 new street workers in the five neighborhoods to seek out and engage with approximately 1,600-2,200 young people aged 16 to 24 deemed most at risk for committing violent offenses. The second part of the strategy focuses on clusters of social service organizations already rooted in the neighborhoods that will expand their hours and options to provide a broad array of services to local at-risk youth, including job training. The street workers will be managed by the Boston Ten Point Coalition, and the extra hours provided by the service organizations will be paid for by a partnership of funders, led by the Boston Foundation, which has contributed a leadership grant of $1 million with a commitment to continue funding over four years.

More information is available at the web site which can be accessed directly or thorough the website of the Boston Foundation at

“In Boston, we've worked hard to provide opportunities for young people, and we must keep focusing on helping them achieve their full potential," Mayor Menino said. “This partnership brings civic and community leaders together to change the lives of some of our city's most vulnerable youth. As leaders, we have an obligation to take a holistic approach to combating violence. It's not just about policing.  It's about using all of our resources to encourage peaceful relationships through intervention, mentoring and positive community involvement.”

“At a time when economic constraints are the rule, here is a broad partnership that is expanding and enlarging a significant program in order to better serve the city,” said  Paul S. Grogan , President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “The goal is to improve the quality of life for everyone by reducing the level of violent crime, and by giving young people at risk constructive and positive alternatives.”

“The strength of the StreetSafe Boston program is rooted in its design as a true partnership between the public and private sectors,” said George Russell, President of the State Street Foundation, which is a funder of the initiative. “Building off the success of existing city initiatives, the Boston Foundation is furthering the reach and impact of violence prevention tactics among some of Boston’s most at-risk youth.  The State Street Foundation is proud to be an early partner in this critical endeavor.”

The Boston Foundation has announced a $1 million commitment to the initiative, with plans to commit the same level of support for the next four years. Other funders who have committed to StreetSafe Boston include the Lewis Family Foundation, State Street Foundation, the Ansara Family Fund at the Boston Foundation, the Alchemy Foundation, the Josephine and Louise Crane Foundation and the Barr Foundation.

Major goals of the program include the following:

  • Dramatically reduce youth violence along the Blue Hill corridor and in the South End by reducing the numbers of homicides, shootings and aggravated assaults.  
  • Increase the number of higher-risk and “proven risk” young people engaged in ongoing programs and services, especially during weekend and evening hours.
  • Create a well-trained workforce of street outreach workers and youth workers with ongoing professional training.  
  • Create a culture of safety among families and youth in key neighborhoods.
  • Create and sustain ongoing partnerships and systems that facilitate collaboration among key stakeholders, including law enforcement, city leadership, nonprofit organizations and community leaders.

In terms of numbers, the overall goal of the program is to decrease youth homicides in target neighborhoods by 10 percent. In addition, the level of violent crime other than homicide, which includes aggravated assault and weapons-related offenses, is expected to decrease by 10 percent, as well

A proven crime-reduction strategy
StreetSafe Boston is designed to build on the legacy of the Boston Miracle, which is credited with sparking an unprecedented drop in urban crime during the 1990s through a similar strategy that placed street workers into sections of the city where violence was particularly high.

The current initiative was designed by  Robert Lewis Jr. , Vice President for Program at the Boston Foundation, who earlier played a leading role in the work of the Boston Miracle while serving as Director of the Street Workers Program for the Boston Community Centers during the 1990s, creating the street workers program.

“We have an obligation to the children of this city,” said Lewis. “I know them as a coach, a neighbor and a father. No one should have to go to another funeral caused by this kind of violence and this program, I believe, brings us all together with one common purpose—to make healthier, safer, stronger neighborhoods where young people can thrive.”

The five neighborhoods that will be targeted in the StreetSafe Initiative—Dudley Square area in Roxbury, Grove Hall area in Roxbury, South End/Lower Roxbury, Morton and Norfolk street in Dorchester and Bowdoin Street and Geneva Avenue in Dorchester—are the site of a significant proportion of violent youth-related crime in an analysis undertaken by experts at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. They estimated that 1 percent of the city’s youth population aged 16 to 24, living in 5 percent of the city’s geography, drive over 50 percent of the youth violence citywide.  Visit to see maps of the targeted areas.

“This initiative brings resources into the neighborhoods where they are most needed,” said  Edward Davis, Boston Commissioner of Police. “Our data make clear that much of the serious crime is the result of a small number of people in specific places, and StreetSafe Boston provides support in a strategic way that can help us bring the numbers down. And when the level of violent crime goes down, everyone wins.”

Lead partners in the five neighborhoods include the Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion in the South End; the Yawkey Boys and Girls Club in Dudley Square, the Roxbury YMCA in Grove Hall, the Boston Centers for Youth and Families (the Perkins Center) in the Morton and Norfolk streets area; and the Boston Centers for Youth and Families (Holland & Grove Hall Centers) for the Bowdoin Street and Geneva Avenue areas.

“I am confident this strategy will have a significant effect,” said the Rev. Ray Hammond, Pastor of Bethel AME Church and Chair of the Board of Directors at the Boston Foundation. “We watched a partnership like this spark real change in the city during the years of the Boston Miracle, and the level of engagement today appears even stronger.”

Evaluation and research will be important elements in the initiative. The Boston Foundation has retained a team from the Program in Criminal Justice Policy Management at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University to undertake this work, and all of the initiative’s partners will be expected to collect program and participant data and contribute to the evaluation and feedback process.


The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation.  In 2008, the Foundation and its donors made close to $79 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of $113 million, bringing its assets to $838 million.  The Foundation is made up of some 900 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes.  The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener, and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges.  For more information about the Boston Foundation, visit or call 617-338-1700.