Codman activists want police lines redrawn

Neighborhood concerns and confusion over which Boston Police District has jurisdiction in Codman Square have led activists to ask Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis to look at relocating the district boundary between B-3 and C-11. The request, brought before the Commissioner at a community meeting in late May, received an enthusiastic response from the Commissioner at the time, and now appears to be under consideration within the department.

As it currently stands, the border between C-11 and B-3 is the edge of Washington Street, with Washington itself being fully in district C-11. Community members say this sometimes leads to confusion and an area sometimes prone to danger is left in limbo.

"We brought up the possibility of putting Codman Square under one district," said Cynthia Loesch of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council, which hosted the community meeting with Davis on May 24. "He said we have to have some conversations and that would be a major decision that they plan on finalizing by the fall."

Elaine Driscoll, a spokeswoman for the police department, said Davis has not had further discussions on the topic. However, a high-level source in the department said that the possibility of re-drawing the district boundaries in Codman Square had been discussed preliminarily, but that there had not been any official decisions.

"He said he may revisit the conversation in the fall, but he will be sure to have open dialogues with the community before any such decision was made," Driscoll wrote in an e-mail.

Meg Campbell, executive director of the Codman Academy Charter Public School, said she raised the question with Davis at the meeting after being bounced between districts several times when trying to report an incident on Washington Street over the phone.

"If you say the incident is across the street they say it's not their problem. That has happened a number of times," said Campbell in an interview this week. "If something is happening across from the school then we get bounced around about whose jurisdiction it is in."

According to Loesch, Boston Police have said they would "definitely… make a decision by the fall," on whether or not to change district boundaries around the square and that if the police are willing to include any community input, Codman Square residents would certainly jump at the chance.

The main problem lies with who to call in the event of an emergency, and Loesch says that right now the confusion is a big problem. [Those who live on the borders don't know who to call and, as in the case of Codman Academy, the police don't always know either.] Residents want a clearer boundary to be drawn and better communication with the police.

"It's complicated and we have to communicate better," said Loesch. "We hope to work with the commissioner on this plan."

But some members of the community who gathered at a meeting on Monday night also balked at the prospect of being placed entirely within C-11, and say that they would rather remain split down the middle than be moved out of B-3.

"A lot of the B-3 people don't want to be under C-11 because of the apparent lack of leadership there. We want to focus on prevention rather than reaction policing," said Loesch. "We have a lot of concerns about this. C-11 has so many hot spots, can Codman truly get resources we need, and the support we need?"

One suggestion raised is the possibility of splitting Washington Street directly down the middle, with anything on the west side being in B-3 and anything east of the line being in C-11. This could potentially double the amount of police in the area as each district would need to send patrols down Washington Street. But Loesch does not believe this would solve the problem, because it would heighten confusion over who to call for people who live right on the border. The answer, for her, is to increase the communication between the community and the police.

Currently, the Codman Square Neighborhood Council is putting together a letter to send to both Davis and Mayor Thomas Menino, outlining two other tactics that the council has recommended for increasing the communication between neighbors and police. One is to have the community contribute to curriculum in the Boston Police Academy, so that new police officers come out prepared for community policing. The second is to have additional youth versus police basketball games with open forums afterwards in an attempt to increase connections on that level.

At the May meeting, the Commissioner appeared open to these suggestions as well as the thought of redistricting, and now Loesch is waiting to see what happens.

"The Commissioner was amazing. He supported everything that we suggested," she said. "Now we just hope that everything that he talked about he was truthful."