About 40 people gathered at the Mildred Avenue Community Center last Tuesday for the latest in a flurry of meetings intended to inform and organize residents in the wake of a brazen daytime shooting that left a Mattapan Street grandmother dead and two other people wounded.
In the wake of the April 6 murder of 74-year-old Eleanor Maloney, her neighbor, Paula Campbell, wrote a letter to Mayor Walsh asking what could be done. The mayor asked the Boston Public Health Commission— and associated agencies with experience in treating trauma— to arrange a series of public meetings to discuss safety concerns as summer approaches.
Last Tuesday’s meeting was the second of three that have been scheduled; the next one is set for Tues., June 18, at 5:30 p.m. at Mildred Avenue facility.
“We are coming together to come up with some strategies to address how the community can be more proactive, and also let the community know that there are resources available,” said Sharon Callender, who works as a nurse and as the director of Family and Community Health Services at Mattapan Community Health Center. She also directs the Mattapan Neighborhood Trauma Team, which has been in place for the last five years.
The Mattapan Public Health Center has a licensed clinician who sees patients dealing with trauma. A therapeutic mentor and family partner also works with individuals and families that are dealing with the loss of their loved one in a partnership with Mothers for Justice and Equality (MJE).
”MJE does response. We do recovery,” explained Callender. “People are concerned, not only for themselves but also for their children. It can affect you directly if you were the person that was hurt by that trauma, or if you were a child walking home from school and seeing yellow tape around or knows that something happened to someone and that was someone that they knew.”
No pictures or recordings were allowed at Tuesday’s meeting and most participants asked to remain anonymous, further underlining the effects of repeated trauma of violence within the community.
Some parents at the meeting expressed anxieties about letting their children (especially tweens) out on their own to play at parks nearby. They requested additional police presence at places like Almont Park.
One resident (Tamika) said she called the Mattapan Health Center for support after her daughter displayed anxiety over police tape and helicopters around the corner from her home after a fatal hit-and-run incident on Hiawatha Street on May 16.
“Many children are crossing the street. I’m worried about their safety,” Tamika said. “I’m trying to teach my daughter to be safe in our community and build her safety skills. I’m guilty too, hustling and bustling to get the kids ready for school, going to work. It’s an investment in myself and my community to get out and create these connections, these bonds. There are people in the area that I’m getting to know who have similar concerns. This meeting was a great opportunity for us to build community and take ownership.”
Other strategies specific to Mattapan were also discussed.
Several people suggested that more surveillance cameras should be installed on the streets where violent incidents happened.
Captain James Fitzpatrick from the Mattapan B-3 station came to the meeting to address practical matters like the camera suggestion. One resident asked him how police will be handling loud parties in the summer months.
“If it’s a family party, on the first call we’ll ask them to be respectful of neighbors and then if we have to come back, we will shut it down,” said Fitzpatrick.
Police plan to confiscate DJ equipment and speakers when shutting down larger parties, he said. Frequent offenders will be shut down on the first call and property owners may be fined $300, depending on the situation.
Fitzpatrick told attendees to always call 911 for police help. If people see fliers or posters for a party circulating in their neighborhoods a few days ahead, they can call the district’s party line: 617-343-5500.
When the topic of groups of teenagers gathering in parks in open areas (particularly at the end of Orlando Street) and partying at all hours came up, the captain asked residents to report those incidents. He said he wants his officers to open up a dialogue with the teenagers.
“We want to make arrests a last resort, but we do have an obligation to the people who live here,” Fitzpatrick said, noting that police will be relying heavily on bicycle patrols throughout the summer, ticketing illegally parked cars.