Underage beer party left big mess in Dorchester Park

To the Editor:

On Sunday, March 18, 2012, at a little after 1 p.m., teenagers began gathering at the tennis courts that are in Dorchester Park, in the Cedar Grove/Lower Mills neighborhood. Many of the teenagers were carrying either a twelve pack of beer or some type of unconcealed liquor. The alcohol was in plain sight, and they seemed unconcerned that anyone might object to obvious drinking in a public park. I thought about calling the police, but my calls regarding previous drinking parties had been ignored.

By about 2:30 pm, I estimated that there were between 60 and 80 teenagers milling around the tennis courts. Beer cans, bottles or other trash, had accumulated around the courts and the trash cans were beginning to over-flow.

As I walked through the park, I noticed about half a dozen beer cans, matching one of the brands that many of the kids were drinking, at various points along the path throughout the park. I encountered one of my neighbors. She had already called the police and encouraged me to do the same, saying, “If enough people call, the police do show up”. So I went home and called 911. The dispatcher asked me how big the party was and I said about 60 to 80 teenagers. He said police officers would be right there.

Four hours later, as the sun was setting, my kids and I were walking home from the park’s playground. The teenagers were leaving en masse in the opposite direction, presumably towards cars that they had parked on Dorchester Avenue. Many of them were stumbling and weaving. One of them had a bloody nose and lip. Two police officers were posted at the tennis courts, over-seeing three or four teenager who were trying to pick up a thick carpet of cans and bottles.

Personally, I don’t really care if people drink alcohol in the park, as long as it’s discreet and people clean up after themselves. But these parties make me really mad. There is the sheer brazenness of the drinking and the size of the parties. My children have to walk by these parties to get to the playground, and that is simply unacceptable. My second issue is the trash that invariably get left behind for me, my neighbors and the City of Boston to clean up. I sometimes ask these kids to pick up their trash. Their attitudes and responses vary, but dozens of cans, bottles (some broken), and other trash always get left behind. The trash is always more than what the park trash cans can hold. Trash is always left up and down the pathways and in the trees in bushes. Often, trash gets left on our lawns and streets where the kids park their cars.

These teenager have drinking parties in parks and other public lands because they know they can. They are enjoying a priviledge at the expense of family neighborhoods and Boston taxpayers. The police claim that they have a zero tolereance policy. The police also claim that they have insufficient resources to immediately respond to every complaint. The simple fact is that it is tolerated.
When the police do respond to calls from me and my neighbors, it’s always hours later, with no arrests. As far as limited resources, I appreciate that the police might be stretched on the day of the St. Patrick’s day parade. But I find it hard to understand why the police have been so slow to respond every other time I have called, or why the police can’t take preventative measures by doing routine patroling and making actual arrests.

The parents of these teen-agers need to take some responsibility. I have actually read letters from parents and others that excuse the behavior of these teenagers as “just part of growing up.” If that’s how you feel, fine. But in that case, you should invite the teenagers to grow up on your private property.

Finally, I don’t want this letter to be understood as simply being angry about teen-age drinking or about public drinking that is open and notorious in one particular park. About a month ago, there was a huge fire out in the marsh, set by teenage drinkers and requiring a large response from the fire department. I find it unacceptable that anybody has the right to trash public property, whether it is in plain view or in some relatively hidden and remote area. I find it unacceptable that basic safety and courtesy to others is being tossed in the trash for the sake of letting privileged teenagers have their fun.

- S. Justin Palmer, Richview Street