Headlines like “Two shot along Hamilton Street” or “Man stabbed to death on Sumner Street; arrest made” are frequent in the Dorchester Reporter, the neighborhood's local paper. On Aug. 27, there were two automobile thefts, one robbery, and nine reports of assault and battery in Dorchester.
Seventy-two murders occurred last year in all of Boston, according to Boston.com. Thirty-two of those murders -- 44 percent -- took place in Dorchester. In 2009, nearly half (24) of Boston's 50 murders were Dorchester-based.
Who would live in such a place?
Despite the seemingly constant violence, nearly 92,000 people -- 15 percent or so of Boston's total population (approximately 600,000) -- make the neighborhood their home, according to the 2010 Census. Students and recent graduates looking for a cheap place to live find themselves asking a crucial question: Is Dorchester safe?
Residents have mixed opinions, but the consensus is that Savin Hill (apparently formerly nicknamed "Stab 'n Kill") and the surrounding areas, which are popular with students and near UMass Boston, are fairly safe. Drugs and poverty are almost always the motivation for the crimes, said those interviewed.
No homicides have occurred on Savin Hill's eastern side of I-93 this year, according to Dorchester Reporter crime maps. A large amount of homicides are concentrated around Columbia Road and Blue Hill Avenue, two of Dorchester's main roads.
When asked if he felt his neighborhood was safe, Marcus Merisier, 23, who has lived in Dorchester for about 15 years, answered quickly: "No, it's not at all." He said someone was shot on his street when he was 10 years old, and his brother once saw someone get killed on a bus.
"It's pretty bad, to be honest," said the Columbia Road resident. "There are shootings yearly, robberies, that sort of thing. You have to keep your head down, basically. It's not that safe.”
Lidza Louina, 22, a resident of the Field's Corner area, has seen much violent activity in the 13 years she's lived in Dorchester. Her downstairs neighbors have "been raided before for guns, drugs, and prostitution," and "a guy got shot and died next to [her]" on a bus ride home, she said.
“A lot of shootings have happened around my area, and I honestly don't know my neighbors because of that," Louina said. "I feel I can't really trust them because I don't want to be dragged down into criminal activity.”
But Andria Ward, 23, said that "there is no such thing as a safe neighborhood -- stuff happens everywhere, and there are a lot of neighborhoods that are worse.” She has lived in Savin Hill for one year but has been visiting her grandmother in the area her whole life.
Other than a May 7 incident in which Nhu Nguyen, 19, shot and killed his former friend, 19-year-old Derek Matulina, at the Savin Hill T stop -- "That was not because of the area," Ward said. "They got out of the train, and one guy shot another guy" -- Ward said the worst event near where she lives was "somebody [stealing] somebody's tires."
“There's good parts and bad parts of every neighborhood,” she said casually.
Photo by Adam Pieniazek (Flickr)
By Paul Driskill -- 21. Queer. Stress-able. Enjoys brains (studying them, that is). Enjoys writing. Goes to UMass Boston. Frisbee. Om-noms frequently. Utilizes the phrase "om-noms" occasionally in profiles.
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