About 12 years ago, Barry Mullen, along with husband Kevin, was instrumental in the creation of over 30 neighborhood watches in St. Mark’s parish.
“Everybody knows everybody. We’re like family here. We look out for each other. So I know it works,” Mullen explains. “It made such a big difference up here that I know it will be great for Fields Corner.”
Mullen, the Assistant to the Director of the Fields Corner Community Development Corporation (CDC), has now teamed up with Close to Home, a local domestic violence prevention program who approached him about establishing crime watches on every street in the area.
The result born of their efforts is the Fields Corner Community Action Network (Fields Corner CAN), a group of businesses and organizations whose mission is “Working together to improve the quality of life in our neighborhood and unite people around community issues and public safety concerns.”
So far, the network is comprised of Close to Home; Viet Aid; representatives from the offices of Mayor Menino, Councillor Frank Baker and Sherriff Steven Tompkins; Vinfen; Louis D. Brown Peace Institute; Fields Corner CDC; Fields Corner Main Streets; and the Boston Police Department.
After years of limited communication among them, all are now working together toward a safer community.
“Fields Corner is a neighborhood that has a lot of problems,” Mullen said. “I think this is not going to solve all their problems, but it’s going to definitely get us in the right direction.”
After a successful Christmas tree lighting in December that saw 350 in attendance (up from a mere 14 in 2011), Mullen and Close to Home collaborators resolved to push for action quickly.
Four neighborhood watches are in the works since its inaugural meeting on February 4. The first meeting of the Gibson St./Adams St. neighborhood watch is slated for March 20 at the Area C-11 police station. There are plans to establish a Park St./Lincoln St./Christopher St. neighborhood watch along with ones for Upland Ave./Bourneside St./Centervale Park/Paisley Park and near the Gibson St. Senior Housing within the next few weeks.
Mullen predicts there will be between 40 and 60 watches in total.
“I finally was able to convince everybody that we need to work together, no matter what,” he said. “It became the common thread…now we’re gonna really push it as far as we can.”
When Mullen established the St. Mark’s neighborhood watch, now 25 years running, an elderly woman told him that it wasn’t needed, claiming the area was “pretty safe.” But when Mullen asked her if she knew her next-door neighbor, she knew only his name.
“Years ago, mothers and fathers were able to talk to each other through their kids that went to the same school,” he noted. “Today, that’s not there, so we really have to figure out another way to do it.”
One of Fields Corner CAN’s goals is for neighbors to build trust not only with each other, but also with the police.
“I’m hoping that the relationships with the police department become good with the people on the streets and then that fear [of witness intimidation] won’t be as bad.”
A big supporter of BPD, Mullen has sat on the C-11 advisory committee for 15 years and knows the lack of resources, equipment, vehicles and personnel the department deals with.
Though progress can be difficult at times, Mullen et al are determined to succeed in the betterment and safety of the neighborhood.
“Fields Corner is a great place and, like I said, it’s not just a stop, it’s a destination,” he said. “I want people to come in and enjoy Fields Corner.”