Operation LIPSTICK Teams Up With the MBTA, Mayor’s Office

New ads to promote the anti-gun trafficking program are hitting the T.

Photo By steve Annear

Photo By Steve Annear

When Kim Odom’s son was shot to death in October 2007, she wanted answers. But the information she was hoping for wasn’t limited to finding out the reason he was gunned down.

“In the aftermath of his murder, I wanted to know several things…I wanted to understand the root cause, and there were three questions that I asked: who is doing what, how is it being done, and how can I add value?,” said Odom, a pastor and advocate for homicide victims and their families. “But there was another part of accountability that needed to be held as well, and that was in asking the question, ‘where did the gun come from?’”

A new ad campaign going up on MBTA trains and buses, aimed at deterring women from purchasing and carrying illegal firearms for their boyfriends or husbands, hopes to bring some of those answers to light.

In a partnership with the advocacy group Operation Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killings, or LIPSTICK, which Odom is a member of, the MBTA and city officials are trying to spread the word in Boston about the repercussions that come with aiding an individual with illegal gun transactions and storage. Prosecutors claim that rather than risk buying a gun themselves, criminals ask women to purchase the weapons for them.

Operation LIPSTICK, which Boston covered in-depth back in November, is a program that warns women against getting involved in this type of gun trade on behalf of their significant other, or family members, a problem that police and investigators say has become increasingly common in recent years and has led to shootings throughout the city.

The new ad going up on public transit vehicles around the city shows a woman in handcuffs with the tagline, “His Crime, Your Time—Holding his gun can land you in jail.”

Advocacy leaders hope the ad will help women understand that they control some of the power in making the community safer against gun crime.

“I believe this campaign is important for two reasons,” said City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who helped unveil the ad on Tuesday at Ruggles Station, alongside Odom, members of LIPSTICK, and Mayor Marty Walsh. “I believe for too long we have been in denial about the role of women and girls in drug, sex, and gun trafficking in our city. This campaign raises awareness about women and girls being a part of the solution. This campaign is about making progress in our fight to end violence in our streets.”

According to Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, officers have cleared more than 83 illegal guns from the streets this year alone, some of which were found on female suspects.

“We are seeing it more and more,” said Evans during Tuesday’s press conference. “Girls involved in violence and gang activity. [Groups] like this is what the city needs. Unless the community gets energized like LIPSTICK is doing, we aren’t going to have an impact…this has to be all of us in this together.”

Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley referenced several instances where prosecutors were able to close in on a case based on information a female suspect gave them in connection with why they were carrying a weapon. “This is a scenario that has played itself out too many times to count,” he said.

Advocates said Tuesday that violence has a rippling effect in the community, impacting people from both ends of the spectrum when a gun lands in the wrong hands and someone is shot, or killed as a result.

Operation LIPSTICK is hoping that the partnership and strong visual aid on the MBTA’s vehicles acts as a deterrent, but also offers avenues to get resources about how to curb gun crime through peer-to-peer work and social service intervention.

“The ad campaign reminds us that we’re all part of the same community and each person’s actions have consequences for all,” said Odom. “By raising our moral consciousness, by encouraging women to say, ‘I refuse to be used to take a life,’ we can unite to prevent shootings starting now.”