Cops: Crime watches help curb Fields Corner trouble

Paige Buckley, Special to the Reporter
May. 23, 2013

The Fields Corner Community Action Network (CAN) met for the third time Monday night to discuss their young collaboration and neighborhood watch effort. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis was set to address the meeting, but was unable to attend due to illness. Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief Dan Linskey and Area C11 Captain Richard Sexton addressed the meeting and answered questions from community members.

“It’s a block by block organizing effort to get more people, more eyes and ears on the street and in the neighborhoods, essentially,” said Carolyn MacNeil, director of the Boston Police Department’s Neighborhood Crime Watch Unit. “Two tenets of the program: know your neighbor and be connected as neighbors, and create relationships among neighbors and also create and work on relationships with the police department.”

Residents expressed concerns about littering and loud music. Others were unhappy with so-called “sober houses” throughout the neighborhood that they said had become havens for crime with frequent loud music and drug and alcohol use.

“We’ve had some trouble with a couple of these sober houses, that they’re not really sober houses,” said Chief Linskey.

“There are some excellent sober houses that actually do great things that help people with their problems in their lives, and you don’t know about them because they’re responsible,” Linskey continued. “But some of these sober houses that are popping up are saying, ‘I don’t care whether you drink and drug in the house, I’m not going to give you any treatment or any drug testing or any guidance; but I’m going to charge you four hundred bucks and try to get Medicare to pay for it.’ The mayor has recognized this. Several city councils have recognized this,” he said.

Chief Linskey said several leaders have been working to increase the federal regulation of sober houses, which he said should face the same scrutiny as childcare centers that are subject to several regulations for licensing. Captain Sexton assured residents that the police were aware of the problem, and that it was being addressed.

Since it’s recent inception the Fields Corner CAN has organized neighborhood watches on 53 Fields Corner streets, and hopes to organize the remaining sixty or so before summers end.

Barry Mullen, assistant to the executive director of the Fields Corner Community Development Corporation, collaborated with Heather Benjamin of Close to Home to establish Fields Corner CAN at the beginning of this year.

“Back in the fall when school had just started there was a big rise in violence in the community so I talked to Barry to see what we’re all doing right now to make this place a safer place and what we can be doing better,” said Benjamin. “And then it just went from there. So now we’ve got all these crime watches and that’s just the beginning of our work. There’s so much more we want to do with it.”

A longtime resident of Dorchester’s St. Mark’s neighborhood, Mullen said, “I think it’s going to make the neighborhood’s so much better: people getting to know each other and working together.”

Chief Linskey said that since CAN’s initiative started earlier this year the police have already noted a reduction in robberies in the Fields Corner area, as well as a significant uptick in community engagement.

“When you get people on their own time who are going out and trying to reach out and engage the community to help the police that’s phenomenal,” said Chief Linskey. “That’s exactly what we need to do, and I credit Barry and all the people involved in the process that they’re able to go out and get people. It’s already started to have its effect.”