NEW BEDFORD — With Tuesday's double shooting, New Bedford has reached its highest homicide count in eight years, and city officials are putting some of the blame on judges’ bail decisions.
“We need a stronger court system that works with the Police Department,” City Council President Joseph P. Lopes said.
Often, people freed on bail commit additional crimes before ever going to trial, Mayor Jon Mitchell said. He declined to comment on whether that is the case in this week’s homicides.
At press time, police had made no arrests and had not publicly named any suspects.
Police Chief Joseph C. Cordeiro said judges should do more to hold “impact players” who have demonstrated a propensity for violence. The state’s dangerousness statute allows courts to hold certain defendants for up to 120 days before trial.
On Wednesday, Cordeiro announced a new police commander for Station 3 in the North End, a move Mitchell said will increase policing. Six of the eight homicides this year have taken place in the large area known as the “near” North End, distinguished from the more suburban “far” North End.
“I think there needed to be an intensification of policing activity in the North End,” Mitchell said. “To me, that leadership change will … hasten the implementation of the chief’s community policing strategy.”
Lt. Amos Melo is being promoted to captain effective Oct. 15 and taking command of the station. The station’s existing captain, Thomas Flood, is out on extended personal leave.
Shootings seem to be migrating farther north, said Carl Alves, executive director of the anti-addiction group PAACA in the near North End. The double homicide on Tuesday, in which the men were shot while they were in a moving Honda Accord, was the farthest north he can recall, he said.
Autopsies were conducted Wednesday on the bodies of the victims, Stephen Bodden, 27, of Taunton, and Fabio Tavares, 28, of New Bedford. Although their official causes of death have not been released, there is no reason to suspect they died from anything but gunshot wounds, according to Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office.
Both of the victims have served jail time. Bodden was released in June from the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston, R.I., where he was serving time in connection with the 2012 killing of two men in the parking lot of a Providence nightclub, according to Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.
Bodden pleaded guilty in 2014 to carrying a firearm without a license and received a 10-year sentence with six years to serve, she said. He received credit for time served while he was awaiting trial.
The Standard-Times reported in 2009 that Tavares was one of three inmates at the Dartmouth House of Corrections charged with assaulting another inmate in the lunchroom.
For ex-convicts, re-entry into the community is very difficult, Alves said. It’s easy to slip back into negative behavior if they have no place to live and no money.
“Their options for supporting themselves and their families are very limited,” he said.
Alves said he is part of a community group that includes the SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce, DA’s Office, and Bristol County Sheriff’s Office that has been meeting to talk about grant opportunities to address that issue.
Follow Jennette Barnes on Twitter @jbarnesnews.