Neighbors patrol streets, send message in Savin Hill

A group of Savin Hill residents fed up with the prostitution and drug dealing in the area took to the streets Tuesday night in an effort to show that crime will not be tolerated in the beachside neighborhood. The effort apparently dissuaded at least one alleged drug user from hanging around.

During a crime-prevention walk along the beach and through Savin Hill Park, a group of over 40 residents encountered a man described by one neighbor as “stoned out of his mind,” and convinced he and his female companion to leave the area.

“Today people expect the police to do everything, and they can’t do it,” said Grampian Way resident Peter McNamara, the organizer of the walk.

“They just don’t have the resources and the neighbors have to take a proactive stance on it,” he said.
Throughout the summer, residents have complained of increased criminal activity in area parks and along the beaches of South Boston and Dorchester. Local officials last month ordered a “zero tolerance” policy for after-hours use of the public spaces and vowed to increase supervision of the neighborhood.
Reaction to the crackdown policy among the National Night Out group was mixed. Some reported that they had noticed an uptick in patrols and a decrease in disturbances while others said that they were still waiting to see the results of the policy.

“To give them credit, in the last two weeks, [police response has] been very good,” said Boston firefighter and Savin Hill neighbor Rod MacKinnon. He joined his wife Joanie and two children on the walk and reported spotting patrols and police stationed around the neighborhood since the order went into effect.

“It’s not happening,” said McNamara of the “zero tolerance” policy.

Andrea Carney related an incident a few months ago where she was followed home by a man who she said was performing lewd acts at 6 p.m. Carney said that she can’t really tell if the new policy is working, but that she hasn’t noticed as much crime, either.

“I can’t tell if things aren’t happening because the police are preventing them or that things aren’t happening because they aren’t happening,” Carney said.

Resident Bill Walczak said that he recently caught a prostitute and client in the act around 11 a.m. while showing a visiting elderly couple the view from the top of Savin Hill Park. Police have suggested at previous neighborhood meetings that clients pick up prostitutes along Dorchester Ave. before travelling to the more secluded Savin Hill.

“Every single night there’s a reason to call the police,” Walczak said.

Neighbors are set to meet with high-ranking city and state police officials Thursday and hope to make the point that increased patrols and faster police responses are needed to catch the drug dealers they say are making sales in the area.

“It’s very solvable,” said Walczak. “There are all these goodwill people, there’s a police force that wants to be helpful, politicians that are interested in solving the problem. Okay, let’s figure it out. Let’s solve it.”

Per the new policy, public beaches from Castle Island to Neponset River now close strictly at 11 p.m., according to a letter signed by several local, state and police officials. Prompted by a July 4 incident where a near-stampede of Independence Day revelers flooded into Savin Hill from nearby Carson Beach, the plan was devised on July 8 when representatives from Boston Police districts C-11 and C-6 met with officials to decide on a course of action to keep the beaches and parks safe.

According to the National Association of Town Watch’s website, National Night Out is an event designed to promote neighborhood crime prevention and awareness. The organization encourages civil groups, law enforcement, local officials, businesses, and other neighborhood groups to band together at least one night a year to “send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.” In addition to flashlight-led walks around the neighborhood, communities around the country celebrate National Night Out with block parties, youth programs, cookouts, parades and contests.