Following a vote on December 8 by the U.S. Senate, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins was confirmed as the next U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
“I’m deeply honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve my community, my Commonwealth and my country as the next United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts,” Rollins said. “Every policy and initiative that I have put in place as Suffolk County District Attorney has been designed to improve the safety and wellbeing of the communities I serve, to improve the public’s trust in law enforcement and our courts and to improve the fairness and equity of the criminal legal system. I’m incredibly proud of the work every member of my office has done to achieve these goals, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to lead an office of such dedicated, compassionate and talented professionals. I look forward to bringing these data-driven, evidenced-based approaches and a heightened emphasis on culturally competent, trauma-informed victim services to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.”
During her three years as the chief law enforcement official in Suffolk County, which includes the cities of Boston, Chelsea and Revere and the town of Winthrop, Rollins has valued her office’s partnerships with law enforcement and the communities it serves to improve public safety and public health. These partnerships have been instrumental in her office’s work improving public safety and the administration of justice in Suffolk County. Data from the Boston Police Department shows that as of December 5 the most serious categories of crime – referred to as Part 1 crime – have dropped. To date, incidents of Part 1 violent crime in 2021 are down by more than 20 percent from the five-year average, including significant reductions in homicides and shootings. In addition, Part 1 property crimes are down by 14 percent. These reductions occurred at a time when other major cities experienced increases in violence.
Rollins has been able to focus her efforts on targeting the most serious and violent crime because of her smart-on-crime policies. Upon taking office, Rollins introduced a policy of presumptively diverting or declining to prosecute certain categories of nonviolent, low-level misdemeanor offenses that are more indicative of mental illness, substance use disorder, food or housing insecurity, poverty or homelessness than of criminal intent. This presumption is rebuttable, and Suffolk prosecutors continue to move forward with prosecutions in approximately 25 percent of these cases.
The effectiveness of this approach in reducing crime is supported by research published earlier this year by the National Bureau of Economic Research. An independent team of academic researchers reviewed more than 67,000 Suffolk County cases that were filed over 17 years. Their findings indicate that individuals who were not prosecuted for nonviolent misdemeanors were 58 percent less likely to be charged again in the next two years than those who were prosecuted for nonviolent, low-level crimes. The study suggests that aggressively prosecuting low-level crimes could actually lead to more crime, while policies of not pursuing an indictment can help reduce criminal involvement.
By realigning her office’s priorities, Rollins has reinvested her office’s limited resources to more effectively address serious and violent felony offenses that cause the greatest harm in the communities she serves. These efforts include the creation of the Crime Strategies Bureau to use data-driven and innovative approaches to investigating and prosecuting offenses, including drug and human trafficking and gang violence. Rollins also launched the Project for Unsolved Suffolk Homicides to use her office’s untapped resources to review unsolved homicide cases with the goal of identifying new investigative avenues that were unavailable at the time of the initial investigation. To date, Rollins’ staff have reviewed upwards of 200 homicide case files with fresh eyes. This effort has resulted in indictments in three homicides that occurred during the 1980s and 1990s.
In addition to her increased investment in addressing serious and violent crime and improving community trust, Rollins has worked to improve the delivery of services to victims, survivors and communities impacted by crime. She hired the first licensed independent clinical social worker to lead the Victim Witness Assistance Program in the office’s history, increased the unit’s staffing by 25 percent and increased by 50 percent the number of victim witness advocates on her staff who speak at least one language in addition to English.