Beach curfew bolsters ‘no tolerance’ policy

After a disturbing incident on July 4 that left one boy hospitalized, Boston and State Police, in collaboration with state and local officials, have set a “no tolerance” policy for criminal activity along the Dorchester and South Boston waterfront.

All public beaches from Castle Island to the mouth of the Neponset River will close at 11 p.m. According to a letter signed by city and elected officials announcing the increase in law enforcement supervision, anyone on the beaches or in closed parking lots after that hour will be considered trespassers.
“I’m pleased with the response so far. I’m hoping that the response will continue,” said Savin Hill resident and neighborhood activist Bill Walczak.

Officials decided on the plan at a meeting held at BPD District C-11 headquarters on July 8. Both C-11 and C-6 captains attended the meeting where they were joined by representatives from the MBTA Police, State Sen. Jack Hart, Savin Hill State Rep. Martin Walsh, South Boston State Rep. Brian Wallace, City Councillor Maureen Feeney, and Dorchester Neighborhood Coordinator Lauren Smyth, representing the mayor’s office.

According to Walsh, the meeting lasted for about an hour and all parties agreed on on the plan. “They’re not down there to enjoy the water, to enjoy the facilities. They’re down there to cause havoc,” Walsh, who called the July 4 incident the “last straw,” told the Reporter. Walsh said that new signs clearly stating the hours of operation for beaches and parks in the area will be posted soon.

The crackdown comes after a crowd of more than 1,000 Independence Day celebrants turned into a stampede that was possibly caused by the presence of a gun on Carson Beach. After the crowd broke up, many headed toward the JFK-UMass MBTA station and Savin Hill, where there were reports of rowdy teenagers smashing cars along the streets.

“It’s a rough group that comes over here,” said Peter McNamara, a Savin Hill resident. McNamara said that most of the neighbors he’s spoken with are relieved by the new policy. “It’s a nice letter, but I want to see results,” he added.

Walczak said that some signs have been posted, but that trees need to be trimmed to reveal street lights that are currently blocked. Walczak believes that it was a mistake to eliminate the Boston Municipal Building Police, a group formerly dedicated to responding to problems on city property, and to rely on the BPD to fight lower-priority crime.

Heidi Moesinger, another Savin Hill resident, said in an e-mail to the Reporter that some of the details of the beach closing times were initially unclear but that Walsh reached out to her to clarify.
“They just have to make sure the signs are clear and also allow for ample amount of resident parking down the beach because I know that a lot of neighbors that live near the beach park their cars there at night,” Moesinger wrote.

Like all recreational areas with both city and state property, law enforcement jurisdiction of Savin Hill’s parks and beaches can at times be murky. Walsh advised residents to call 911 any time they witness a crime and dispatchers will send the appropriate state or local unit.

“I think the police are trying to be creative in coming up with ways to combat this,” Walsh said. He admits that there will be no new funds dedicated to increasing patrols of the area, but that the collaborative effort from neighbors, law enforcement, and government will help enforce the “no tolerance” policy.