Boston street worker arrested, charged with illegal gun possession

A Boston street worker hired by the Boston Foundation is under arrest after Boston police investigating an unrelated disturbance call allegedly found him sitting in a car with an unlicensed firearm stuffed into his waist and suspected cocaine nearby in the car, officials said.

Marcus Merritt, 35, is to be arraigned in Dorchester Municipal Court today on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a cocaine with intent to distribute, and engaging in sex for a fee, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office said.

Prosecutors said police were responding to a call on Auriga Street early Saturday when they spoke to a woman who was sitting in the car with Merritt. The woman allegedly made statements “relative to prostitution,’’ which led police to investigate both people more closely.

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Police found the gun and the suspected cocaine and placed Merritt under arrest, prosecutors said.

When he was arrested, Merritt identified himself as a street worker for the City of Boston. But the Globe reported in 2010 that Merritt was one of the street workers whose wages were paid by The Boston Foundation in an effort to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in the city’s neighborhoods.

Street workers are deployed in Boston’s troubled neighborhoods in an effort to redirect at-risk youth and gang members away from crime and violence. They are civilians, not police officers.