City inspectors seek entry
Community members are raising concerns about a three-decker house at the corner of Milton Avenue and Stockton Street in Dorchester where a number of moderate-to-high-risk sex offenders are living.
City and state officials are treading carefully in their response to the complaints, which focus on both a lack of neighborhood notification with regard to the sex offenders and possible illegal use of the property as a rooming house.
Dawn Barrett, of Stockton Street, said she first noticed a number of men coming and going from the white three-decker at 96 Milton Ave. that abuts her driveway during the summer. She reached out to the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board and found that a number of Level 2 (“moderate-risk”) sex offenders and seven Level 3 (“high risk”) offenders were listed as residing in the house. The higher level sex offenders were charged with rape of a child with force, with the most recent charge listed in 2013.
As the mother of 12-year-old and 5-year-old sons, Barrett said she was astonished that no one had notified the neighborhood as to the presence of sex offenders on Milton Avenue or had, at minimum, alerted the immediate abutters. She began contacting city officials, distributing fliers around the neighborhood, and raising the issue at community meetings.
“They’re in the community, but nobody knew,” Barrett said. “If I wasn’t suspicious, nobody would have known who these people were until something happened.”
The three-family dwelling is owned by Kelvin Sanders of Last Layer Realty, LLC, according to city assessing records that show it contains twelve bedrooms and three bathrooms.
In August, Boston’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) received a complaint from neighbors about a potential illegal lodging house, Commissioner WIlliam Christopher said. Such a report prompts a “reactive inspection” to verify whether or not “the standards of building code, zoning code, and sanitary code are being met,” he said, noting that a structure is being used as a boardinghouse when it include things like locks on individual doors or hot plates in the rooms. “Our inspectors are very well versed in the trends of these things,” Christopher said.
But first they need to be inside the building.
Bringing a landlord to housing court is ISD’s last resort, so inspectors try three times to assess a building before taking legal action. In the case of the Milton Street house, inspectors were thrice denied entry to the house (occupants must grant access to their private residences before inspectors can enter, unless there is a life safety issue), so ISD served the owner with a violation notice on Sept. 13. The owner has 30 days to respond to a violation notice. ISD’s violation notice expires on Thurs., Oct. 13, at which point the department will begin the process of bringing the case to housing court.
Sanders has not returned the calls of local officials since August, has not responded to the ISD violation, and his lawyer’s claim in August that tenants would be served a notice of eviction remains unverified. He did not respond to calls from the Reporter seeking comment this week.
The offices of state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and City Councillor Andrea Campbell have been looped in on the proceedings and are actively pursuing answers for the neighbors.
In an email to residents and other elected officials, Campbell wrote, “I along with my team and city departments are required to follow laws and regulations and do not have the authority to evict anyone or remove individuals from their home. That being said… we took immediate action and will continue to work on this case.”
Legally, sex offenders are permitted to live together in normal housing in Massachusetts, but the protocol for informing neighbors remains unclear. According to the registry board, Dorchester houses 163 Level 2 sex offenders, and 122 Level 3 offenders. Boston houses 508 and 409 offenders, respectively. The board’s website does not list specific addresses, which must be obtained through local police departments.
In response to what they feel is a potential safety crisis, residents of the streets surrounding Milton Avenue are forming a neighborhood group called the Dorchester Unified Neighborhood Association (DUN). An initial meeting in August drew 70 attendees and a second one in September drew 50, according to Barrett, the group’s president.
The association’s next meeting will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wed., Oct. 26, at Boston International High School, 100 Maxwell St., Dorchester.