Residents and police talk crime in the Grove Hall neighborhood

In the wake of two grisly convenience store clerk killings in the past several months, Boston Police officials are reaching out to local business owners to establish lines of communication in an effort to prevent further crime.

BPD officers from District B-2 joined Boston Crime Watch coordinator Wallace Tilford Tuesday night at the Grove Hall Community Center for the first of a series of meetings on the issue of neighborhood crime. More than a dozen local business men and women, representing many of the area’s shops, restaurants, and storefronts, heard crime prevention tips from the BPD while sharing their concerns with the officers.

“They’ll come and crack down once ever four years or whatever it is, but it’s there every day; it’s not going to stop unless we have consistency,” said one businessman.

The gathering also served as the start of the new Grove Hall Business Crime Watch Association, which will act as a communications avenue between business owners and the police.
In a letter to businesses owners announcing the meeting and the start-up of crime watch association, BPD District B-2 commander Captain John Davin said that “by cooperating with each other and the police, crime can be fought in the most effective way with education and information.”

The broad effort comes after an uptick in violent store robberies in recent months. On Feb. 21, Geraldo Serrano was gunned down while working at the Hermanos Unidos convenience store on Dudley St; in January, a man was shot in the arm outside the Store 24 in Peabody Square; and in December, a clerk was killed during a robbery at a Tedeschi store in Jamaica Plain.

One of the tips offered to business owners was that they should leave storefront windows unobstructed by advertisements to allow police to see what is going on at the counter. “That’s one of the most important things that we want to stress,” Tilford said.

Steven Rumpler from the city’s Office of Business Development said that the mayor’s office operates a grant program offering up to $500 to businesses for the installation of surveillance equipment like cameras, monitors, and digital video recorders.

Community Service Officer Nicole Allen suggested that shopkeepers welcome patrons when they walk in the door, which she said can deter criminals because you’ve already acknowledged their presence in the store.

Another major issue of contention during the meeting was the activity of officers stationed at the BPD substation in Grove Hall, located across the street from one of the problem areas being discussed.

“[The officers] see the problem and ignore it. They’re police officers, they know what the ordinances are and they totally ignore the problem,” said one meeting attendee. Tilford called this sort of community feedback “exactly what we want to hear,” and said that he and the officers in attendance would notify the proper officials about the complaints.

Tilford said that the next meeting of the new association will be held next month in the same location.