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July 30, 2012

CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
(617) 704-6682


(L-R) Dr. Barbara Ferrer of the Boston Public Health Commission and Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral were among a group of panelists assembled by the Dimock Center to discuss strategies for reducing violence in Boston.

Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral recently took part as a panelist in an event convened to answer the question: “How do we create a violence–free Boston?”

Spanning the spectrum of public health and safety and spiritual services, the group of experts was brought together by the Dimock Center to discuss the topic of violence from a public health perspective and to undertake the challenge of working towards sustainable solutions to the crisis of violence within the communities of Boston and across the country.

Teaming with Sheriff Cabral on the panel were Dimock Center President & CEO Ruth Ellen Fitch; City of Boston Public Health Commissioner Barbara Ferrer, PhD; Greater Love Tabernacle Senior Reverend William Dickerson; ROCA Founder and Executive Director Molly Baldwin and Co–Publisher of The South End News and Bay Windows Sue O’Connell, who acted as moderator.

With the gravity of her collective experience as a former District Attorney, Director of the Roxbury District Court Family Violence Project and as the person who now oversees the Suffolk County House of Correction and Nashua Street Jail, Sheriff Cabral spoke emphatically about the contributing factors to the cycle of violence and the need to place resources where they can achieve the most success.

“A lot of the mental and physical illnesses that we see hail from substance abuse and addiction and trauma–based violence,” said Sheriff Cabral. “That’s where a lot of the mental illness is coming from. Violence is a learned behavior and the trauma that goes along with it is inherited. Just as a parent leaves something to their child in a will, that is exactly what happens with violence.”

“The cost of this violence to communities, to taxpayers to the people themselves is exorbitant and we can’t build our way out of it,” continued Sheriff Cabral. “We should be focusing a lot more on prevention and intervention. That’s the place that we should be putting the bulk of our money because that’s the best bang for your buck you’re ever going to get.”

Seeking to dispel the stereotype that violence is primarily a “Black issue” or that it only affects certain communities, Reverend William Dickerson cautioned against such naive and potentially dangerous thinking.

“It’s an illusion to people who are not directly impacted by violence that we are talking about it on a national level as though it were not an American problem,” said Reverend Dickerson. “It’s as though all the violence you see in the Black community is just a Black community problem. I’m a Black man, but I’m an American as well, so I think that when you look at it from a bigger scope, you can deal with violence that is overt and covert. Violence is an issue that affects all Americans. As an old preacher I knew used to say, ‘When there’s fire in the cities there will be smoke in the suburbs.’”

A statistical analysis given by Dr. Barbara Ferrer about the prevalence of violence in the everyday lives of young Boston Public School students painted a grim portrait that confirmed both the severity of the problem and the need for more resources to tackle it.

According to Dr. Ferrer, 17% of Boston Public high school students have reported experiencing violence in their homes with 12% reporting violence in their relationships with their partners, and another 10% reportedly being bullied at school in the past year. Add to these alarming numbers more than 4,000 cases of substantiated child abuse in one year within the City of Boston alone and the issue can seem overwhelming.

It is for exactly these kinds of instances that such collaborative events are critical.

“We all know that a well–functioning, productive and healthy community requires collaborative efforts from every sector,” stated Ruth Ellen Fitch. “The goal of our forum is to create an open dialogue that will shed light on the many initiatives currently in place as well as the ways in which we can come together to advance our common goal of creating a violence–free city.”

Echoing the call for stronger networking and resource–sharing among concerned agencies, panelist Molly Baldwin reaffirmed the potential for success in reducing violence that exists in every person.

“One of the greatest tragedies is that, for some groups of young people, violence is just as normal to them as the sun rises every day,” said Baldwin. “And, what that does to them individually, spiritually, physically and emotionally is equally tragic. But, I am a big believer in intervention and the roles that public health and criminal justice play. We have to work harder to connect all of the resources to the people who need them because it’s never too late to address the issue of violence as long as you are alive.”

For more information about the participating organizations, visit ROCA at:, Dimock Center at:, The Boston Public Health Commission at:, Greater Love Tabernacle Church at:, and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department at:



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