In efforts to keep Cambridge free of gun violence, calls for summit with Somerville go unanswered
Residents of Cambridge and Somerville are still waiting on a summit between politicians and police about cross-city violence. At a Safe Streets, Safe City meeting on Thursday, city councillor E. Denise Simmons said that Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui has reached out to Somerville officials twice to encourage one.
A summit of mayors, councils and police forces of each city was proposed in late February in a City Council policy order by Marc McGovern, who was particularly concerned about violence between youth in The Port neighborhood and Somerville’s Mystic River public housing development.
Solving the violence can’t be done “on our own,” Simmons said. “I believe with that collaboration we will be able to get some mitigation and remediation and maybe some reparation around the rift that’s existing.”
“If we could sit down and talk to some of these folks, they may not even know when they’re still upset with one another,” Simmons said.
Asked May 5 about summit efforts, Siddiqui said she was trying to hear back from Somerville about a date.
Somerville city councillor and president Matthew McLaughlin said Thursday that he’d been in communication with Cambridge councillors about a proposed summit and submitted a similar resolution with his own city council. “I look forward to working with Cambridge to address this issue,” McLaughlin said in an email, calling the situation “not new [but] very much life and death.” Messages were also sent Thursday evening to Somerville’s mayor, council and a spokesperson for the city.
There have been four incidences of violence linked to the The Port and Mystic River areas since 2019. The latest was Feb. 15, when there was gunfire in both.
When cross-city incidents take place, Cambridge police are “basically in contact with Somerville PD in real time,” Deputy Superintendent Fred Cabral said during the Thursday meeting.
Police Commissioner Christine Elow noted that there had been no confirmed shooting in Cambridge since March 11, which she attributed to “collaborations, outreach partnerships and really strong community engagement” – a 14-week streak that ended Saturday as two suspects were arrested after an apparent exchange of gunfire. One taken into custody on-scene carrying a firearm; another resident fled in a car toward Somerville, crashing it on the McGrath Highway and running. He was arrested by Somerville police, authorities said.
The suspects were from Boston, and the incident took place in East Cambridge.
Peace Walk and game nights
Kessen Green, director of outreach and community planning for Cambridge police, highlighted a recent community engagement effort in which community members, mostly from The Port, walked with police officials. The Peace Walk on May 24, which started at the Moses Youth Center on Harvard Street and ended at the Pisani Center on Washington Street, was intended to promote a safe summer in the neighborhood and city and honor lives lost to gun violence.
“It was a great thing to see the robust nature of young people in the neighborhood running through the neighborhood and enjoying themselves,” Green said. “That was something that we haven’t seen for years in that neighborhood, based on a lot of violence that was happening.”
Another engagement initiative, a series of family game nights in which tenants in the Washington Elms and Newtowne Court public housing developments would engage with plainclothes police officers, was announced at the Thursday meeting by Cambridge police deputy superintendent Steven Magalhaes. While the tenant council still needs to vote on the initiative, Magalhaes said that they were on board.
Magalhaes says that the initiative was created because tenants said they were fearful of being outside at night. The game nights would take place starting July 6 and take place every Monday and Wednesday until the end of August.