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Boston Police Department documents obtained by WBUR provide, for the first time, a glimpse into the department's gang database and how gangs are tracked in the city.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts sued Boston Police last year to gain access to the department's Gang Assessment Database, which is maintained by the Boston Regional Intelligence Center. BRIC is a unit of the Boston Police Department that gathers and analyzes intelligence, which is accessible to federal law enforcement.
The lawsuit was prompted by concerns over how allegations of gang affiliation are used in immigration court proceedings. Civil liberties advocates, and those who study policing, say they have concerns about the accuracy of the database, and the impact it could have on individuals wrongly identified as a gang member. And they want to know more about how police track those contained on its rolls.
Current Gang Picture In Boston
Boston police generated an analysis in response to the ACLU's lawsuit, providing what it calls the "current gang picture in Boston."
- Approximately 160 "documented gangs" in Boston (but not the names of the gangs)
- 100 "active" gangs, with about 30 gangs "actively driving violence"
- About 5,300 total individuals
- Approximately 2,800 "active" gang members
- The remainder — or about 2,500 individuals — are classified as "inactive," "deceased," or "long term incarcerated"
- 66.4% black non-Hispanic
- 14.1% white Hispanic
- 9.7% black Hispanic
- 2.3 % white non-Hispanic
- 0.4% Asian
- 1 person with MBTA transit police
- 1 person with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
- 1 person with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- 1 person with Boston Housing Authority police
- 1 person with Suffolk County Sheriff's Department
- 2 people with Boston School Police
The ACLU says it still has outstanding document requests with the BPD.
"We're still waiting for more documents and the full picture of how information gets into the gang database," Lafaille said. "How that information is then shared out with other agencies is still a mystery to us."
This segment aired on July 30, 2019.
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