Watchdog

Feds, Boston cops team up to get illegal guns off streets: Tiny but potent Taurus pistols key focus of search

By 
Stephen Kurkjian and Pat Tarantino, Special to The Reporter
Jan. 5, 2011

As the city struggles to contain a dramatic spike in gun violence, 18 handguns bought through an illegal straw purchase in Georgia in 2009 are believed to have wound up on the streets of Boston. So far two of the 18 handguns have been recovered by Boston Police officers, but, according to investigators the others are believed to be hidden here.  Read more

Another arrest tied to Georgia gun pipeline

By 
Callum Borchers, Special to the Reporter
Sep. 22, 2011

Shawn Young: Gun seized from his Topliff St. home has been linked to illegal 'straw' purchases in Georgia. Shawn Young: Gun seized from his Topliff St. home has been linked to illegal 'straw' purchases in Georgia. A year after murder by gunfire spiked 66 percent in Boston, the city is on pace for an equally deadly 2011 as weapons imported from states with relaxed gun laws continue to wind up on local streets.

Through Sept. 18, there have been 36 deadly shootings in Boston this year, only one fewer than at the same time last year, when the final tally was 58. There were 35 fatal shootings in all of 2009.

Shootings throughout the city in which a victim was hit but did not die also remain high. A total of 162 people have been wounded in shootings through Sept. 18, one more victim than on the same date a year ago.

While the number of individuals arrested with illegal firearms has fallen 12 percent this year, compared to the same nine-month period in 2010, a recent arrest illustrates how some of the guns end up in the hands of criminals in Boston.  Read more

City plans crackdown on ‘problem properties’; owners facing fines

By 
Stephen Kurkjian and Rachel Zarrell, Special to The Reporter
Jun. 23, 2011

47-49 Savin Hill Ave: Six-family house has been source of concern in Savin Hill.47-49 Savin Hill Ave: Six-family house has been source of concern in Savin Hill.First in a two-part series.

When 19-year-old Derek Matulina was shot to death at the Savin Hill MBTA station on May 7, his father instinctively knew the house where the alleged killer, Nhu Ahn Nguyen, was initially reported to have fled after the shooting.

Having lived in Savin Hill for over a decade, Robert Matulina, now 61, remembered the house as an eyesore even before he left the neighborhood 10 years ago. While police now doubt the initial media accounts that the house had been a hiding place for the alleged killer and, possibly, witnesses to the crime, it was not surprising that those familiar with the neighborhood would find such reports credible.  Read more

Community center shake-up prompts longtime members to cry foul

By 
Stephen Kurkjian, Special To The Reporter
May. 26, 2011

A bitter split has erupted among past and current members of the citywide board that oversees the network of neighborhood community centers set up to provide a range of after-school programs for youths and families across the city.  Read more

It’s hit or miss at city-run centers; Despite calls for reform, some still get little use

By 
Stephen Kurkjian, Rachel Zarrell, and Gal Tziperman Lotan, Special To The Reporter
Mar. 17, 2011

This article was reported by Stephen Kurkjian, Rachel Zarrell, and Gal Tziperman Lotan, and written by Kurkjian.

Moments after the buzzer sounded ending classes for the day, a dozen Harbor Middle School students burst through the doors connecting the Fields Corner school to the Cleveland Community Center, one of 38 such facilities established by the city to provide a variety of after-school athletic, arts, and tutoring programs for kids just like them. The youths seemed raring to go.

But the Cleveland, with no educational or arts programs in place, was hardly ready for them. So the students rushed over to the back corner of the room, pulling money out of their pockets, and stopped at the vending machines.  After they had bought their fill of snacks and soda, they exited as boisterously as they had entered, leaving the center’s large recreation room empty and in silence, save for the sounds from a courtroom drama droning from a wide-screen television on the wall.

Seven years after the Menino administration pledged widespread reforms in the wake of a scathing management report that had found weak leadership throughout Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) and inadequate levels of programming at the facilities, improvements at many of the community centers remain a case of promises unmet.  Read more

One-third of Dorchester households now use food stamps

By 
Rachel Zarrell, Special to the Reporter
Feb. 10, 2011

Top Ten Food Stamp Stores in Dorchester-Mattapan 2010Top Ten Food Stamp Stores in Dorchester-Mattapan 2010

This article was reported by Rachel Zarrell, Gal Tziperman Lotan, and Stephen Kurkjian, and written by Zarrell.

The last year has been a difficult one for Matthew St. Andrews. In March, he was let go from his full-time job as a FedEx manager. Then in November, he went on unemployment after he lost his temporary construction job. With his income drastically reduced and heightened concern about how he could take care of the needs of his daughter, who stays with him three days a week, St. Andrews successfully applied for the federal food stamps program.

 “If I didn’t have a three-year-old, I’d probably be more likely to sleep on friends’ couches,” he said, “and just survive on my own, however I could.”

Anh Vo: Assists customers at Maria's Market on Dorchester Ave., one of many convenience stores with a high volume of SNAP purchases. Photo by Steve KurkjianAnh Vo: Assists customers at Maria's Market on Dorchester Ave., one of many convenience stores with a high volume of SNAP purchases. Photo by Steve Kurkjian With a new food stamp card tucked in his wallet, St. Andrews is like so many other people in Dorchester who are having their own bad times. In the past four years, almost 17,000 Dorchester residents have joined the program, making nearly a third of those living in the neighborhood dependent on stamps to buy food for their families. At the end of last year, residents of two of the four Dorchester zip codes placed third and eighth, respectively, in the state for the greatest use of the program.

This increase in the numbers of recently unemployed and the concerted drive by the Patrick Administration to get the poor and elderly who qualify to participate in the program have elevated the numbers of those on food stamps in Massachusetts to the highest levels in history.  Read more

Spike in shootings prompts renewed quest for solutions

By 
Stephen Kurkjian and Pat Tarantino, Special To The Reporter
Dec. 16, 2010

Tina Chery: A pioneer in citywide efforts to curb violence, Chery's son Louis was killed in a December 1993 shooting, not far from her current office in Fields Corner..Tina Chery: A pioneer in citywide efforts to curb violence, Chery's son Louis was killed in a December 1993 shooting, not far from her current office in Fields Corner..

The numbers are deeply disturbing: Nearly eighty percent of the shootings in Boston in 2010 have taken place in the three police districts that cover Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.

Last year, 223 people were killed or wounded by gunfire in Boston, and 174, or 78 percent, of the shootings took place in districts B-2, B-3 and C-11. This year, with several weeks to go, the number of shootings in the city has increased to 258, and, again, 78 percent of them were in these three districts.

The Search for Solutions

BPD Commissioner Ed Davis: Extra pressure on gang members

Rev. Eugene Rivers: Pastor convenes stakeholders, stresses "realism"

George Chip GreenidgeGeorge Chip GreenidgeGeorge "Chip" Greenidge: Violent year spurs new calls for answers

Celeste Allan: Murder victim's mom finds community's embrace

Marivelle Crespo and Gina Patterson: BPD team aids families, heads off trouble

Tina Chery: Peace Pioneer seeks to improve coordination of services

Emmet Folgert: On alert for alternativesEmmet Folgert: On alert for alternativesEmmett Folgert: Veteran youth worker connects teens with jobs

These stark numbers only convey part of the story. The real story, those on the front lines of the battle tell the Dorchester Reporter, is the impact this violence is having on those who live and work in these neighborhoods – and whether they will assert strongly to families, friends, and acquaintances that they will not tolerate the continued presence of guns or further criminal activity in the homes and on the streets of their neighborhoods. And, too, there is the overarching question of the role of the rest of Boston in this enterprise: Will they join Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan – or abandon them – in taking on the challenge of saving the streets.  Read more

Hub’s ATF chief, residents talk guns and street violence in unique meeting

By 
Stephen Kurkjian, Special to the Reporter
Nov. 18, 2010

ATF Chief: Isaura Mendes, mother of two murdered sons, reaches out to Guy Thomas, head of Boston’s ATF office, at Sunday afternoon’s meeting at St. Peter’s Teen Center. 	Photo by Stephen KurkjianATF Chief: Isaura Mendes, mother of two murdered sons, reaches out to Guy Thomas, head of Boston’s ATF office, at Sunday afternoon’s meeting at St. Peter’s Teen Center. Photo by Stephen Kurkjian

The accounts of loss and grief that violent death has brought in recent years to an increasing number of Dorchester families, particularly inside the Cape Verdean population, brought nods of recognition from the well-dressed, heavy-set man at the microphone at St. Peter’s Teen Center on Sunday afternoon.

For Guy Thomas, who recently took over as head of the Boston office of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there was a tie beyond his crime-fighting interests that bound him to the 40 or so people who showed up to hear him and several Boston Police commanders speak: Born and raised in the projects of New Haven, Thomas saw one of his cousins killed and two others wounded on the streets of his boyhood neighborhood.  Read more

Daytime supervision at some group homes stirs anxiety

By 
Stephen Kurkjian and Pat Tarantino, Special to The Reporter
Oct. 28, 2010

Aaron Larget-Caplan: Group home next door was source of frustration in Uphams Corner.Aaron Larget-Caplan: Group home next door was source of frustration in Uphams Corner.First of two parts.

Charles Hollins is accustomed to dealing with skeptics as he goes about his business of persuading residents that there will be no problems when his company, Bay Cove Human Services, locates a group home for either the developmentally disabled or those in need of psychiatric services in their neighborhood.

And he’s good at his job as director of advocacy; Bay Cove, one of the largest social services providers in Massachusetts, operates 19 such homes in Dorchester and 31 more throughout the city, according to an independent human services accreditation firm.

But the response that Hollins received at the Cedar Grove Civic Association several years ago still leaves him shaking. The outcry from residents over Bay Cove’s plans to locate a residential facility for six developmentally-disabled people in a nearby home was intense, reaching its peak when one father held his toddler over his head and asked if the child would be safe living in the neighborhood.  Read more

Despite millions in funding by city, little is happening at Strand Theatre

By 
Stephen Kurkjian and Pat Tarantino, Special To The Reporter
Aug. 25, 2010

Strand Theatre: Columbia Rd. landmark goes unused most days.Strand Theatre: Columbia Rd. landmark goes unused most days.After $8 million in renovations, Strand site unused 10 months a year; bustling '90s now a memory

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino says the proudest moment of his political career took place last year at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester when more than a thousand people, of all races, faiths and ages, locals as well as out-of-towners, turned out over two nights to attend the play “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

The mayor has given two of his State of the City addresses at the Strand and his commitment to the theatre goes beyond the rhetorical. He has channeled $10 million in city funds in an effort to return the Strand, the last neighborhood theatre in the city, to its early 20th-century glory.

But Menino’s enthusiasm for the Strand has not extended to his administration’s stewardship of the Uphams Corner fixture – even though it has become one of the city’s costliest neighborhood initiatives.

Despite the extensive renovations, usage of the theatre has fallen dramatically in recent years.  Read more