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Building community … street by street

There’s an effort afoot in Fields Corner that promises to improve public safety and quality of life in that part of Dorchester. And it could very well be a model for similar efforts elsewhere in our neighborhoods.

Led by two exisiting non-profit organizations, neighbors have launched a initiative called the Fields Corner Community Action Network (CAN). The group hopes to serve as a coalition of civic, crime watches, and other non-profits— all with the singular aim of addressing crime-related problems.

The group held a meeting on Feb. 4 and drew key stakeholders, along with public officials, including newly-appointed Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins, Captain Richard Sexton of the C-11 Boston Police district, and Chris English, the local liaison from Mayor Menino’s office.

The concept behind the initiative is loosely based on a similar project organized by longtime St. Mark’s Area crime watch leader Barry Mullen, who works for the Fields Corner Community Development Corporation. The CDC, along with Close to Home, the domestic violence prevention group based in the village, have so far been intergral players in the CAN effort.

Mullen explains: “We need to get people on their streets to know one another and to look out for each other. We also need to build a street-by-street relationship with the police. This needs to be an effort of many groups and organizations in and around the Fields Corner community. We had a great working relationship with all of the groups in Fields Corner around last year’s tree lighting; we will continue to build on these relationships.”

Fields Corner has benefited mightily already from the work of the Main Streets organization, which supports and galvanizes the business community. But it has sometimes struggled to streamline the efforts of residents and institutions into a sustainable, coordinated approach to tackling systemic problems in the neighborhood. The Fields Corner CAN effort is a promising attempt at shifting that paradigm.

The CAN project is focused mainly on getting new crime watch groups organized and trained in the coming months. A meeting to pull together a new crime watch group for Gibson Street/Adams Street will be held on Wed., March 20 (6:30 p.m.) at the C-11 station house at 40 Gibson St. Carolyn McNeil, who coordinates crime watch organizations citywide for the Boston Police, will be on hand to help get the group off the ground.

“We will also look for other ways where we can work together to make Fields Corner not just a stop, but a destination where people will come to experience our community in a way it should be,” Mullen explained.

For more information or to join a Neighborhood Watch on your street, contact Barry Mullen at the Fields Corner CDC office at 617-282-4290. Or Heather Dabreu at the Close to Home office, 617-929-5151. The group has also established a hotline at 617-265-4913.

Green light for JFK-UMass cameras

The MBTA has sent word along that a bank of security cameras — long asked for and long delayed — has finally gone live at JFK-UMass station. There are over 50 such cameras now monitoring the comings and goings at the busy Red Line and commuter rail hub. The project was “completed months ahead of schedule,” according to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

Cameras are no substitute for vigilant commuters and T employees. An alleged broad daylight assault in December on a UMass student suggests that some crimes will happen around our stations no matter what the circumstances. But we welcome the news that the T has finally responded to the community’s cries for beefed-up technology measures that will — in the long run — help make us safer. Hopefully the word gets out to those who like to prey on innocents in this neighborhood: We are watching you.