Editorial: More enforcement needed at beaches and parks

A July 4th disturbance that began at Carson Beach and spilled over into Savin Hill marred the Independence Day festivities for neighbors and has — with good reason— amplified calls for a police crackdown on “trouble-makers” who are suddenly flocking to the neighborhood’s once sleepy waterfront.

“We feel that it’s only a matter of time before there’s a tragedy [at Carson Beach],” said Trooper Brian Dunn, who patrols state-owned property in Dorchester and South Boston. “It’s unfortunate that the good people that want to walk the area and use the beach are kind of being held hostage. We’re looking into getting signage put up to restrict the times it can be used. We’re open to anything right now.”

Dunn was a witness to what transpired on Sunday at Carson Beach, where a large gathering of young people turned rowdy around 9 p.m. Dunn says that there were close to 1,000 revelers still gathered at the beach at that hour when a stampede began, possibly triggered by a beach-goer brandishing a gun. State Police received reports that a gun may have been fired, although the Reporter is told that no ballistics evidence was recovered. However, a small boy was trampled in the chaos that ensued, leaving him hospitalized.

In the minutes after the crowd dispersed, Dunn said, a large crowd made its way to the JFK-UMass Red Line station. T police reported that many of the teens then made their way to Savin Hill, where reports of large teens jumping on cars and threatening neighbors prompted a response from Boston Police.

The disturbance is the latest in a series of incidents at Carson Beach, which has become a popular gathering spot for sunbathers and families, but also — according to Dunn— young people with little interest in swimming.

“It’s been happening with increasing frequency in the last month,” says Dunn. “They’re not there to cool off at the beach. They’re down there to hang around and settle scores with rival factions and this is the new venue.”

Dunn reports that State Police have seized knives and made several arrests in recent weeks. They have also issued court summonses to individuals for public drinking. But, the beach at the crossroads of Southie and Dorchester remains a magnet for teenagers from across the city and beyond.

State Rep. Marty Walsh said this week that he wants to see a crackdown on the behavior.

“We’ve got to buckle down and these kids need to respect neighborhoods,” Walsh said. “It’s spilling into Savin Hill. Many seem to be coming from outside the city even, and it can’t go on. There will be strict enforcement here.”

Stepping up police enforcement — something that neighbors cried out for at a meeting held at the Dorchester Yacht Club last month— is a key next step in staunching the summertime spiral of unrulyness.

Bill Walczak, who lives next door to the city-owned Savin Hill Park, says that there has been rampant loitering, drug use, and late-night partying going since summer started. He has grown frustrated with what he says has been a slow response by police and other officials to deal with the complaints.
Walczak, who has lived in Savin Hill for more than 30 years, says that the situation is the worst he has witnessed since the 1980s, when the park was a notorious destination for underage drinkers and vandals.

“The last ten years have been relatively peaceful, but this year is different,” said Walczak. “Word seems to have spread that you can get away with anything in Savin Hill.”

Walczak toured the park several weeks ago with officials from the city’s Parks Department, who promised to clear tree limbs that are blocking much-needed spotlights that could help deter trespassers. Weeks later, that work has not yet begun.

Tougher enforcement of existing city and state laws meant to prevent after-hours loitering at the parks and beaches is urgently needed. Neighbors in Savin Hill and other communities have doubts now about whether their legitimate quality of life concerns are being taken seriously. It’s time for police and other authorities to act swiftly to erase any doubt and send a clear message that late-night shenanigans won’t be tolerated in our public spaces.

– Bill Forry

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