Angry Residents Erupt in Chorus of Complaints About Lack of Police Presence

Captain Thomas Lee with Lt. Detective Chuck Wilson at the April 5, 2012 North End Public Safety Meeting.

The honeymoon is over in the North End for the newly assigned Boston Police District A-1 Captain Thomas Lee. At the April 5, 2012 neighborhood public safety meeting, approximately 70 residents and business owners erupted in a chorus of complaints regarding deteriorating quality of life conditions.

An out-of-control St. Patrick’s Day in the North End, drunken street mayhem, loud residential parties and the latest in a string of unsolved sexual assaults combined to bring out nearly three times the usual attendees at the monthly meeting with Boston Police at the Nazzaro Community Center.

Police emphasized that the statistical crime numbers in the North End remain low compared to other neighborhoods. Yet, they heard dozens of neighborhood stories over nearly two hours at the meeting with detailed descriptions of nightly disturbances.

The investigation continues regarding the previously reported sexual assault last week on Prince Street, reported Lt. Detective Chuck Wilson. On March 30th, a single female victim was walking home alone at 11:45 pm on Prince St. when the attacker tried to forcibly kiss her. She was able to get away from him. Police cannot give all the details of their investigation, but said they have a good description of the suspect (5’6″-5’8″, late 20’s to early 30′s, medium build, short dark hair and a goatee). BPD has increased patrols significantly in the North End, both in uniform and plains clothes. State Representative Aaron Michlewitz said, “I appreciate the added patrols, but it would have been more helpful to have them before the incident.” Police did not say if the incident was related to previous sexual assaults with similar profiles in the North End over the past several years.

Captain Lee apologized for the lack of police presence during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Longtime Fulton St. resident Janet Gilardi said, “In 40 years, I have never seen a St. Patrick’s Day so bad.” Lee responded that the police were focused on South Boston and did not expect such bad activity in the North End. Since then, he has heard several complaints and said “that won’t happen again.”

Neighborhood business owner and longtime resident, Damien DiPaola, said “the North End has small versions of St. Patrick’s Day every Thursday through Saturday during the hours of 12-4 am as kids stream into the neighborhood from the Faneuil Hall area. There is no police presence and it really gets terrible.” Similar reports were voiced by others at the meeting about drunken young people coming from the Blackstone St. and North Station areas. Resident and NEWRA Zoning and Licensing Committee co-chair David Kubiak told police, “now you have detailed reports and you have to go after that problem.”

Jorge Mendoza, NEWNC council member and business owner, reported that he sees Suffolk University students “urinating, vomiting and destroying property. Many of us feel that things have gotten worse as more students have moved into the North End. We are not a campus, we are a community.” He asked meeting attendees to raise their hand if they experience quality of life problems. Nearly everyone in the room raised their hand.

Sgt. Tom Lema said there is at least one officer assigned to Hanover St. in the late night hours. He reported that during the month of March, there were 12 calls for loud parties issues. District A-1 tracks calls regarding quality of life and loud party issues and encourages residents to call 911 when such problems arise.

Captain Lee promised more police presence on Hanover St. between the hours of 12-4am, at least for a short while. In a follow-up email, District A-1 said they will add two additional walking officers assigned to the area of Hanover St. in the North End starting at midnight. The patrols will take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

When one resident complained about late night restaurant hours, the business owners in attendance said the people causing the problems are not coming from the North End restaurants because they target a more upscale clientele. Instead, the problem was identified as excessive drinking in the Faneuil Hall area, along Union St. and from the North Station bars when “drunken zombies” come to the North End late at night looking for food or to return home.

Detective Chuck Wilson, a North End native, said he continues to believe the North End is the safest neighborhood in Boston. “I take personal pride in making sure that serious crimes are addressed in the neighborhood,” said Wilson. He identified ongoing investigations regarding larcenies in the North End and said he will actively target crimes including break-ins, stabbings and assaults.

A regular public safety meeting attendee named Marie said, “Our quality of life has gone downhill. Nobody is doing anything about it. One cop on Hanover St. can’t handle it. There is madness on every street in the North End.” A Unity St. resident said he sees kids drinking and partying behind the Eliot School. He recently reported sighting a possible firearm in the school yard.

An ongoing theme at the meeting was the request for more police enforcement. Resident Bart Higgins bluntly said, “I wish you would stop describing how the system is supposed to work because the system doesn’t work” for noise and quality of life issues. BPD has focused on education through card handouts and student orientation lectures. Several residents said that is not effective and more serious measures are needed, such as fines and arrests.

Resident Brian Brandt complimented police on their general willingness to listen to residents. But, he also asked for more police presence. “You don’t see police on Hanover St. like you do on a busy street in New York City,” he said.

Stephen Passacantilli from Councilor LaMattina’s office asked police how the community can get involved. Police said they are willing to support a Neighborhood Crime Watch. Many attendees signed up on a list circulated during the meeting.

State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz encouraged residents to call his office with specific addresses that are causing problems. Sgt. Lema told attendees that the Problem Properties Taskforce can target landlords and repeat offenders of loud party issues. A mother of a four year-old child identified 25 Tileston St. as a problem property where Suffolk students are partying on the fire escape, even knocking on the window of her daughter’s bedroom.

A few residents alluded to taking the situation in their own hands, expressing concerns that conflicts are increasingly likely between residents and quality of life offenders. Before that happens, Boston Police asked residents to call them first. For immediate assistance, call 911. Captain Lee said residents can also call his direct station number at 617-343-4238 or email [email protected].

The next North End Public Safety meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 3, 2012, 6:30 pm at the Nazzaro Community Center, 30 N. Bennet St. All are welcome to attend.

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