Residents, Boston Police Department staff and representatives from Dorchester community organizations gathered Wednesday night for a meeting to discuss fears and response to recent criminal activity in the area. The meeting was held at the Church of God Christian Life Center on Fuller Street. Jonathan Dos Santos, 16, was shot and killed outside of the church on June 10.
“It’s alarming when we see the shootings,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, speaking to a sweltering meeting room packed with community members, civic groups and local leaders, including Boston City Councilor-at-large Ayanna Pressley, City Councillor Charles C. Yancey and State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry.
Evans was joined by BPD Captain Richard Sexton and Captain Haseeb Hosein, whose C-11 and B-3 districts encompass the Dorchester and Mattapan area, as well as the BPD gang unit and a number of other BPD officers. Sexton said that crime statistics for the entire city are “good,” while Hosein added that the number of homicides in Boston is down 83 percent over last year.
“We’ve been very fortunate to withstand the type of violence that has been spiraling in other major cities,” Evans said. “Not that we’re perfect here—but we’ve got something special.”
That something special is the BPD’s close ties with community groups across the city, according to Evans, including Dorchester’s Ashmont Hill Association, Peabody Slope Neighborhood Association and Ashmont Valley Neighborhood Association, which sponsored the meeting in partnership with BPD and City Councillor Charles C. Yancey’s office.
Sexton and Hosein both cited community engagement as an essential element in the effort to prevent future violent incidents and to divert kids from participating in gang activity.
“We’re selling hope, because there’s so much opportunity out there for these kids,” Hosein said.
Sexton said that while outreach should primarily be the job of community groups like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs, the BPD is doing its best to build trust between its officers and Dorchester families and teens.
“We’re trying to get involved, get officers out there to create good partnerships with kids,” he said.
A key element of this strategy is increased deployment activity, according to Sexton. He said his district, C-11, gained about 12 new officers this year, which will help with both enforcement and engagement.
Dawn Barrett, who lives on Stockton Street and has been a Dorchester resident for six years, said that increased enforcement in the neighborhood is a priority for her, particularly because she said she'd been a victim of burglaries, vandalism and retaliation for reporting crimes in the past. While she said BPD alleviated some of her concerns at the meeting, Barrett felt that the police need to do more.
“I want to see the police bikes on my street to prevent the activity we see now. I don’t see them enough,” she said.
But according to Evans, BPD has made an effort to dedicate a lot of resources to the neighborhood. He said that this summer, typically a “hot time” for crime in the city, BPD will focus on getting into schools, playgrounds and summer camps, and working with different organizations to ensure the needs of the community are being met.
“We aren’t the only solution,” Evans said. “It’s got to be a group effort to make this community as safe as it can be.”