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New layer of security needed at city parks

The public safety threat that was manifested this week by the assault and robbery of Ed Forry in Dorchester Park made the news well beyond the tight-knit village of Lower Mills. The incident resulted in stepped-up police patrols, maintenance, and vigilance in the park itself. At Cedar Grove Gardens, whistles – made available by Councillor Frank Baker’s office – were made available to customers. There was a buzz in and around the park that everyone needs to be on heightened alert, especially because Ed’s assailant was not identified or apprehended.

The regular police patrols will surely dissipate. And, we hope, the sense of alarm will fade away, too. In the absence of any further incidents, things in Dot Park should return quickly to normal.

But one thing needs to change soon— and not just at Dorchester Park, but in and around all city parks.

In the immediate aftermath of the assault on my father, responding police officers were obviously anxious to get a description of the mugger, who sneaked up from behind and pulled him down in a headlock. Due to this tactic – and because he was rendered unconscious – my father never saw his attacker. Neither did any of the people whom police encountered elsewhere in the park.

So, police sought to find another witness in the form of a surveillance camera, but currently there are no cameras posted anywhere on the perimeter of the park.

Police departments around the country – including Boston – use video surveillance as a tool to aid investigations such as Sunday’s incident. But today cameras are not deliberately monitoring any Boston parks or playgrounds.

There are not enough park rangers to patrol sites like Dorchester Park. It’s up to Boston Police to make the parks part of their regular patrols, but due to the size and terrain, it’s not reasonable to expect that police will be on the watch constantly inside the parks.

Cameras are an important investigative tool to help first responders get a timeline of events and, perhaps, an image of criminal activity after it happens. They are tools that police encourage private businesses to employ. Technology now allows for the feeds from these cameras to be accessed immediately at police stations. The same should be true at our public spaces. We don’t need every square inch of every park covered with eyes in the sky. But the entrances to our parks, at least, should have them to give authorities a chance to catch a break in instances like this one.

The best way to prevent acts such as Sunday’s mugging is for those of us who use the park to be pro-active about calling police when we see suspicious behavior. Several folks have since noted to us that a man was observed lingering and acting strangely in the park on Sunday afternoon. We need to pull out the cell phone and call the police when we sense that someone or something is amiss.

Most of all, we need to continue to use the park. In a visit on Tuesday evening, it was plain to see that Sunday’s well-publicized incident did not scare away the many joggers, walkers, and families that love to use Dorchester Park. And we expect there will be a big crowd to watch tonight’s (Thursday) concert at the Adams Street ball field, sponsored by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Park patrons are the best asset we have in keeping all of our city parks safe. But it’s time to add a new tool to our security arsenal and we hope city and state leaders will take action to ensure that cameras will be posted in sensible locations in the coming weeks and months.