Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis this week told a gathering of civic leaders that he would order more police patrols to begin Tuesday in Greater Neponset, part of a beefed-up policing presence aimed at curbing what many residents say has been an uptick in violence and delinquency in that part of Dorchester.
Davis said a six-officer team would deploy on bicycle and foot in Greater Neponset, an area broadly defined at last night's meeting to include Cedar Grove, Pope's Hill, St. Mark's, Lower Mills and Ashmont-Adams, among others. On Tuesday, Davis followed through on his pledge as six officers on ten-speed bicycles were dispatched to patrol the area.
A dozen representatives from civic associations and crime watches in those villages huddled with Davis and other police commanders for about one and a half hours on Monday evening at the District C-11 police station on Gibson Street. Davis scheduled the meeting after an estimated 300 people packed into the Murphy Community Center last Wednesday evening to discuss their concerns about crime in the neighborhood.
Two murders on King Street in the last month - including the shooting death of a 25-year-old man outside of his home last Thursday afternoon - have fueled the anxieties of neighbors in recent days. Confrontations between rival groups of teenagers at Garvey Park and Toohig Park have also been the source of concern, especially after a gun and knife were brandished during an August dispute at Garvey. Two young men were arrested in that incident, but local residents say this summer brought a rash of quality-of-life problems - from late- night drinking parties in public parks to stolen bicycles - that they say cries out for increased law enforcement.
Phil Carver, president of the Pope's Hill Neighborhood Association, told Davis that "it's not stuff we're accustomed to and we don't want to be." Carver told Davis that the civic leaders want police to commit two Safe Streets teams into the Neponset area. The Safe Streets Initiative uses six-officer teams to patrol specific districts, like Bowdoin-Geneva and Codman Square. The teams of officers, a signature of Davis's tenure in Boston thus far, have been credited with crime reductions in those business districts.
Davis said he did not have the funding or manpower to deploy a permanent Safe Streets team in Neponset, but said he would immediately beef up the police presence by deploying six additional officers into the area each day between 4 and 11 p.m. Davis did not say precisely how long that deployment would last, but pledged to work closely with civic leaders to gauge its effectiveness. Davis also said he would order an additional team of officers to execute warrant arrests in the neighborhood to aid in the initial effort.
"Right now, we've got a problem," Davis said. "We'll make sure the numbers go down.
"This is my responsibility right now. I'll take care of this. Look at the resources I put on this and what happens over the next few weeks and then let me know if you're happy with it," Davis told the group.
John O'Toole, one of the civic leaders who attended Monday's meeting with Davis, said that he personally observed the bicycle patrol in action on Tuesday.
"It's reassuring to see the immediate response with tangible evidence of it. When you see six officers on bike, you take notice. And the kids took notice as well and I think they feel good about it. The commissioner certainly backed up his word and hopefully it continues. The message has to be that we have a vigilant community and police force that works together and that doesn't make it a good environment for crime," said O'Toole.
Captain John Greland said Tuesday that the bike team would patrol from Dix Street to the Neponset River and between Dorchester Avenue and Morrissey Boulevard.
"It's a lot of ground to cover, but on a ten-speed, you can do that," said Greland. "We'll feed them information, but they will be focusing on the parks and tot lots in particular."
At Monday's meeting, mayoral liaison Lauren Smyth told the group that the mayor was committed to beefing up programming and maintenance at local parks and community centers as part of the response.
Davis said that he was out of town during last Wednesday's heavily attended Pope's Hill meeting, but looked forward to addressing a larger group on his emerging deployment strategy. Davis pledged to attend a wider community meeting set for Wed., Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. at the Murphy Community Center.