Troubled properties face crackdown: Elected officials react as police update public on Savin Hill T slaying

As the police confirmed that a troubled Savin Hill property was not directly linked to the gunman who recently killed a teen at the nearby MBTA station, they and local elected officials met with around 300 neighbors to update residents on the investigation and to outline efforts to crack down on absentee landlords.

Nineteen-year-old Derek Matulina was shot in the chest on May 7 during a brawl on the platform of the Savin Hill T station. He was declared dead after being rushed to Boston Medical Center.

Boston Police Superintendent-in Chief Daniel Linskey said on Tuesday that by working with MBTA police, the district attorney’s office, Boston’s homicide detectives, under Deputy Superintendent Kevin Buckley, were able to track down and charge Nhu Nguyen of Dorchester, who had fled to Maine after the shooting.

Speaking at the Cristo Rey High School, Buckley told neighbors the confrontation on the T platform was “not a random incident. It occurred between people that knew each other.”

After the shooting, witnesses told police that a group of individuals fled the station and ran to 47-49 Savin Hill Ave. “We were able to determine that the shooter was not related to that address,” said Linskey,” adding that the witnesses who ran to that address were “not what we were looking for, for the shooter.” The building’s owner, My Nguyen of Weston, told the Reporter last week that the group was scared by the shooting and ran back to the house.

Police said that they believed the case against Nguyen is “strong” and that the investigation is on-going.
The murder has cast a spotlight on absentee landlords, and local elected officials at both the city and state level are attempting to change laws to empower landlords to remove problem tenants and to increase penalties on absentee landlords.

“Tonight we have two separate issues. We have the horrific violent act that occurred on May 7 and then we have the ongoing issue that we talk about every single community meeting each of us attends, and that is, and I’m sorry if people are offended by this, the major problem we have with problem properties,” said City Councillor Maureen Feeney.

“Everyone here knows that that’s a ‘bad house,’ ” said one woman at the meeting. “People don’t like to maybe admit that things happen here. You don’t want to be labeled as ‘this isn’t a great neighborhood’ but that’s not how we feel, obviously,” the woman said.

Linskey said police and other city agencies are putting new effort into tracking problem buildings. “We are now looking at systems where police information is going to be shared with fire information, with ambulance information, with Inspectional Services information, and we’re going to get together and determine what’s going on with properties to see if there’s something we need to do better,” he said.
Area C-11 Captain Richard Sexton described his station’s ongoing work to identify troubled properties. He named a handful of addresses in the area, such as 116 Grampian Way and 14 Pearl St., as properties that are or have been problematic in the past. Sexton emphasized that community interaction was important to help the police patrol the neighborhoods.

“There’s more people here than at my last 12 meetings combined and that’s a good thing,” he said.
Earlier this week, Mayor Thomas Menino proposed new regulations to identify problem houses and to penalize absentee owners and disruptive residents. State Rep. Martin Walsh said he has met with Housing Committee chairman Kevin Honan to discuss what can be done about problematic landlords and tenants through state-level legislation. Walsh said after the meeting that he is looking at legislation that would clarify the rights of tenants and landlords while streamlining the process in housing court.
“I certainly don’t want to be throwing tenants out on the street, but I want to address the issues of absentee landlords or tenants that are causing public nuisances,” Walsh said.

“They get a subsidy; there is also a responsibility that comes with that and it’s called decency. That’s all we’re asking for,” Feeney said, referring to Section 8 vouchers that subsidize low-income housing.
Nam Pham, executive director of the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (VietAID), warned against discriminating against minorities in the wake of the murder. “Crimes do not discriminate,” Pham said, “Vietnamese, white, black, Latino -- we all have been victims of crimes.”