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Safe street a treat for revelers

In wary Hub, area a Halloween draw

By Meghan E. Irons
Globe Staff / October 29, 2010

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Melville Avenue in Dorchester might seem an unremarkable stretch of neatly kept Victorians and tended lawns, with the occasional picket fence. But the street, tucked between the worn three-deckers of Fields Corner and Codman Square, has a prized quality: It is safe.

Each Halloween, hundreds — some say thousands — of costumed children come on foot and by the carload from nearby blocks and farther away in Mattapan and Roxbury for what their parents worry they will not get at home: a night of trick-or-treating without fear of violence.

Throngs have come for years, turning Oct. 31 into an event that some residents prepare for with parties and huge caches of candy.

This year, fear of violence could make the crowds even bigger. In the aftermath of a wave of slayings that included two 14-year-olds and the grisly shooting of a mother and her 2-year-old son, Mayor Thomas M. Menino has ordered police patrols stepped up and special Halloween events in the neighborhoods.

On Melville Avenue, residents are intent on keeping the spirit of the holiday alive.

“They come here because they can, because it’s safe, and we love them,’’ said Deborah Kowalski, a 30-year Melville Avenue resident. “Parents feel they can come here and let their kids walk up and down the street without any issues.’’

Few residents seem to know how the street became a Halloween hotspot. They don’t advertise. Yet each year, school buses, vans, and sport utility vehicles pull up, spilling youngsters in costume and their parents onto Melville Avenue and neighboring streets.

Neighbors say the children are polite and often wait patiently with their parents or chaperone for their share of the goods.

One resident, Peter Kennett, said he plans to give out some 2,000 Reese’s peanut butter cups, packets of M&Ms and Milk Duds, and lollipops. He has enticed four friends with beer and wine to come over and take turns handing out the treats.

One recent afternoon, he dumped his candy stash onto a marbled-top island in his kitchen, marveling at how big Halloween on Melville Avenue has become.

“We moved here two weeks before Halloween’’ six years ago, he said. “One of the neighbors came up to us and said that we should be prepared for Halloween — or leave or turn off the lights.’’

His neighbors surmise that trick-or-treaters are drawn to Melville Avenue’s wide and well-lit street, and Kennett, an architectural designer, said its Victorian houses convey a “Halloweeny’’ feel.

Many get into the Halloween spirit, wearing costumes and masks. One neighbor staged a faux Michael Jackson concert on his lawn last year.

“It’s really fun,’’ Kowalski said. “I really love to see the kids in their costumes. Everyone is adorable, but some are simply magical.’’

Another resident, Bob Ougoorlian, said he and his partner plan to host a Halloween party on Sunday with about 20 guests who are expected to do their part and give out candy.

“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger,’’ Ougoorlian said of Halloween on the street. “We can’t do it alone.’’

One year, 50 children formed a line outside their front doors, patiently waiting their turn for treats.

“It’s really unbelievable,’’ said his partner, David Rivard. “They start coming around 5, and by 7 we are all out of candy.’’

Melville Avenue is not the only Boston street that draws scores of city children. Many also trek to Ashmont Hill and Savin Hill areas in Dorchester or to streets in Hyde Park.

Yesterday, Menino encouraged trick-or-treaters and their parents to have a safe holiday, and said he has asked for more police patrols this year. Fire and emergency medical vehicles will be stationed throughout the city, and parks will be lit. Boston housing police plan to increase their presence in public housing developments.

“The mayor has requested significant police visibility out that night,’’ said Elaine Driscoll, a police spokeswoman. “So our officers will be on foot, bikes, and in cruisers to ensure that everyone has a fun and safe evening.’’

The city also has announced a variety of Halloween events over the weekend, including a Community Howl in Egleston Square today and the mayor’s Boo Bash at the Strand Theatre in Uphams Corner from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Back on Melville Avenue, Kennett will be spraying cobwebs on his lawn and putting up a fence near the front walkway to keep the throngs from damaging the hedges.

He sometimes winces at the amount he and his partner spend on candy. But he still plans to keep the lights on.

Meghan Irons can be reached at mirons@globe.com.

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