An unsolved shooting near the Ashmont T station in Dorchester two weeks ago has frightened area residents to the point that more than 40 met with police officers and civil servants last Monday to complain about suspicious activity and unreturned 911 calls, but all parties ultimately resolved their differences and vowed to communicate more clearly.
The meeting took place at the VFW Post on Bailey Street, where the Fuller-Bailey Neighborhood Association meets once a month to discuss local issues. This time it was the non-fatal shooting on February 7 of a resident at 61 Bailey St., where many neighbors said trouble continually congregates.
"Cars pull up, and people get out and leave within 30 seconds," said Steve Weymouth, a long-time Bailey Street resident who has suspected drug activity at the house since police arrested six traffickers there in March 2004. "This has been going on at that building for a while," Weymouth said.
C-11 District Captain John Greland said police did not arrest the current resident in 2004 and pointed to the six arrests as proof of resident-police cooperation.
A man who declined to give his name said he lives next door to 61 and has spoken with the property's landlord, Patricia Burton, who also lives on Bailey St.
"She said only one man lives on the first floor and one on the third, but there appears to be more than one person in each apartment," the man said.
"This guy [the victim] is still living in the neighborhood. The landlord doesn't know who he is or what he's doing. His neighbor doesn't know what he's doing. This is a recipe for disaster," Weymouth said.
The residents of 61 Bailey St. and its landlord were noticeably absent from the meeting, but Captain Greland said he wasn't surprised since the victim has given different stories to detectives, giving neighbors more reason for alarm.
"He's not very forthcoming," said Captain Greland. "He has ceased all phone calls, doesn't want to talk to Detective Schroeder - right now it's pretty much in limbo.
"Let me put it this way," Captain Greland added, "I believe it's an isolated incident, and that's all I'm going to say about it."
This comment drew the ire of many, including Weymouth, who interjected, "But for those of us who live in the neighborhood - I understand police quietness - but this where we live."
Many residents expressed concerns that police were too lax about the shooting. One neighbor who says she lives across from 61 Bailey St. said, "I called 911 and said, 'My husband saw someone being shot,' and nobody has come by to ask us what happened yet."
Two other women also said police had not followed up on their calls that night, but most residents said police response in the area is normally impressive.
"If this had been a homicide, everybody who had called would have been called back," Captain Greland said. "But since the guy who was shot knows who shot him and isn't saying anything, it isn't going very far."
As a private attorney, Weymouth agreed: "To ask [the police] to solve a shooting where the victim doesn't want to cooperate with police about what happened at night in a couple of seconds is expecting too much," he said.
Area Commander Rafael Ruiz, who oversees parts of Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester, said Captain Greland would review the 911 call log and also pointed to the scarcity of shootings on and around Bailey St. - one occurred in 2000 and another in the early 1990s - as proof that "there hasn't been a crime problem in this area."
"But hot spots start somehow. Patterns start somehow," said Shelly Goehring, who lives on Bailey St. and led the discussion. "We understand there's an investigation, but it's our neighborhood, and we want to keep it safe."
More than just concerned residents were at the meeting. A representative from Trinity Financial, which is building a six-story office building outside the Ashmont T station, was there, along with state Rep Willie Mae Allen of Mattapan.
Allen asked Captain Greland if increased police presence was an option, but the idea faded from conversation after Boston City Councillor Charles Yancey lauded area police presence and proposed grassroots solutions like youth organizations and neighborhood volunteers.
"All of the police officers here are very committed to this community," Yancey said. "They can't solve all of the problems alone."
Yancey did, however, volunteer his office as a bully pulpit from which neighbors could approach the absent landlord. He said she could lose her property if she fails to evict known criminals.
"The best way to approach [the landlord] is with honey," Captain Greland said, advocating a conciliatory approach along with sustained neighborhood vigilance and clear resident-police communication.