Crime watch effort beefed up in Neponset

Despite relatively stable crime rates in Neponset, a series of high-profile violent crimes and burglaries have residents calling for extra security measures. An Aug. 12 shooting on Adams Street at Lonsdale Street not far from Neponset, which left one man dead and another in critical condition, has sparked new concern among residents who say the quiet residential neighborhood is becoming a prime location for criminal activity.

On Tuesday, a group of about 25 residents gathered with Boston Police District C-11 representatives to discuss what is being called the Greater Neponset Community Watch, a conglomerate of smaller neighborhood watch groups meant to funnel important information to police and neighbors alike.

“The key is communication,” said crime watch organizer and Pope’s Hill Neighborhood Association president Phil Carver. “What we’re trying to do is work together, communicate with the same police stations, same police officers and create a bigger network of information.”

Carver said that unlike prior community watch efforts, the new group would funnel information from individual residents to block and neighborhood captains in an effort to provide both police and neighbors with a clearer picture of criminal activity. The new plan would rely on walking patrols and porch-based spotters who will report suspicious activity to the group through E-mails, phone trees, and social networking sites.

By reporting as many criminal incidents as possible, Carver hopes to draw an increased police presence to the neighborhood.

“You have to understand – calling 911 doesn’t make you a crank,” Carver said. “You’re being a concerned citizen and a good neighbor.”

The pitch for a renewed crime watch effort was well received by many in attendance. State Representative Marty Walsh said increased community and police interactions were vital to preventing crime in the area.

“We need to be out there more, sitting on our porches more and talking to your neighbors,” Walsh said. “If you see somebody who looks suspicious, you need to let everyone know.”

Walsh said that substance abuse among young adults has been a motivating force for many acts of burglary and that an outreach effort to get more people into detox programs could help prevent future crimes.
“There are kids in our own neighborhood on heroin and Oxycontin, smashing car windows and looking for cash; we need to get these kids help, reach out to them,” Walsh said.

Boston Police Department spokesperson Elaine Driscoll echoed this concern, saying that drug abuse has been one of the “main motivating factors” in a state-wide increase in breaking and entering cases.

While Neponset residents showed considerable concern for their neighborhood, there have actually been nine fewer reports of burglary in their police district compared to last year. In contrast, District B-3, which includes Mattapan and most of the western half of Dorchester, has seen a jump from 154 reported incidents to 224 as of August 8.

As part of an effort to combat this rash of theft, Driscoll said BPD detectives now make appearances at the arraignments of defendants they consider “career criminals” in order to help ensure those arrested face jail time.

“The police commissioner is very focused on the issue of increased breaking and entering incidents,” Driscoll said. “He is ensuring that every district makes every effort to stop the problem.”

Area C-11 community service officer Mike Keaney said drugs have played into a large number of crimes in the neighborhood, including last week’s shooting at 539 Adams Street in which the assailant ambushed two men as they exited the home, firing 11 shots into one victim and striking the second once in the back.

“These individuals were targeted by this guy. He was no stranger to the victims,” Keaney said.
Keaney commented that while there have been 18 reported incidents of breaking and entering in the C-11 district in the last month, they all follow a similar pattern: A thief finds easy access to a home through an opened window or unlocked door, grabs valuables laying in plain sight and escapes.

“They’re looking for a quick hit,” Keaney said. “A bag of heroin costs less than a six pack of beer and an open window or unsecured A/C unit makes for an easy target.”

While the renewed community watch is still in its infancy, residents appeared eager to get involved.
Renee Angland attended the meeting with Dawn Donovan, her friend and neighbor. Donovan’s home was struck by gunfire earlier this year during a shooting on Westglow Street and had more than $100 stolen from her car this month.

“Up until 10 years ago we could leave our doors open,” Angland said. “But I’ve been here for 35 years and I’m not going anywhere.”