The separate murders of two men on King Street in the last month-and-a-half weighed heavily on the minds of those gathered for Tuesday night's meeting of the Saint Mark's Area Civic Association.
Nicklan Rosa, 25, was shot to death in the driveway of a home he lived in at 26 King Street on the afternoon of Sept. 18. Police say that an unidentified, lone gunman targeted Rosa in what they say was likely a gang-related dispute.
Rosa's murder was evidently not related to the Aug. 25 murder of 40 year-old Troy West, who was found dead on a bench inside the King-Adams playground early on a Monday morning.
Both cases are "under investigation," Officer Mike Keaney told civic association members who gathered in the basement of St. Mark's church for Tuesday night's meeting. "There's not much more to tell you," he said.
So far, no arrests have been made in relation to either murder. Since both cases are open homicide investigations, Keaney declined to comment on possible leads. After each killing the police posted notices throughout the neighborhood requesting public assistance with their investigation.
In September, there were a total of 119 incidents reported to the police within the St. Mark's Area boundaries, according to Keaney. Of those, 24 resulted in arrest. That number is slightly, but not significantly, higher than normal.
But it is the quality, not the quantity of violence that is raising public concern. In addition to the two murders, there were two stabbings, one occurring during the course of a robbery, and several other violent incidents in the district in September.
On Sept. 12 a man was arrested after he showed a water pistol to an adolescent. When the police stopped him for questioning they discovered the water pistol was filled with kerosene, he was also carrying a gallon container of kerosene and several packs of matches. He told the police that he was planning to confront a man that recently stole his bicycle, and that he planned to scare him.
"It's a very unsettling time in Dorchester," City Council President Maureen Feeney told the crowd gathered in the basement of St. Mark's church. "It's not just the number of incidents, but the level of violence that has people scared."
Tuesday's meeting of the St. Mark's Civic Association was slightly larger than normal, according to Tom Leahy, president of the association. Leahy said the increase in attendance could be the result of the recent violence in the neighborhood.
In recognition of public concern, the meeting was attended by an uncharacteristically large and highly-ranked coterie of officers. In addition to Officer Keaney, Boston Police Captain Greland, commander of district C-11, and Major Arthur W. McLaughlin, state police commander for Troop H which includes the metropolitan Boston area, addressed the crowd.
A six-officer tactical bicycle patrol, created to respond to the recent spate of violence, began patrolling last Tuesday and has already been effective, Greland told the audience. He credited them with increasing the visibility of the police department in the neighborhood, and performing a warrant sweep that resulted in several arrests.
Greland later told the Reporter that the bicycle unit had made two arrests this week alone, including the Monday evening arrest of a 19 year-old man charged with attempting to rob a another man near Dorchester Ave. and Charles Street. Greland says that the bike team also made an arrest in a second attempted street robbery near Ashmont Station on Tuesday evening.
Asked after the meeting whether the bicycle patrol, or any other police detail, had developed leads on the two murders, Greland declined to comment citing the fact that both cases were still under investigation. He did say that the police had sought, and were still seeking, information from the community about both murders.
After the meeting, association president Leahy, himself a Boston police officer, offered only that he had "full confidence in the Boston police," to handle the increased level of violence in the neighborhood.
"We've had bad times in the neighborhood before," councilwoman Feeney reflected. "The difference this time is that people are coming together and not going to tolerate it."