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Brookline residents ask town police to send crime alerts faster

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  February 12, 2013 11:35 AM

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Brookline residents, anxious over a recent string of street crimes in a part of town near Boston University, said at a meeting Monday they would like to see their town’s police department find ways to more quickly notify the community about crime and emergency alerts.

Meanwhile, local law enforcement tried to alleviate concerns.

Boston University Police Chief Thomas Robbins described the recent string of robberies as “a lot of high-profile crime that grads media attention.”

“Crime, overall, is trending down dramatically,” he said. “What we’re dealing with is the perception of crime.”

While crime in Brookline is up 1.8 percent so far this year compared to last year, crime rates during the past four years are at the lowest levels the town has seen since the mid-1990s, officials said.

Still, he and Brookline Police Chief Daniel O’Leary said that authorities were concerned and police took the incidents seriously, evident by the arrests have been made in several of the recent attacks as well as by the increased patrols in the area.

Many residents wanted to know what more could be done.

Many were curious about how Brookline police could do a better job of notifying residents more quickly about serious crimes in their neighborhoods.

Some pointed to BU’s campus alert system as a model.

“We’re trying to get there,” said O’Leary. “We know we can do better. We know that.”

He said Brookline police are trying to improve the way they notify residents about emergencies, including by training more members of the department about how to use their Twitter page to send out immediate notifications.

The department is encouraging increased use of Twitter and to send more-detailed information out to existing, resident-managed neighborhood e-mail groups.

In addition to the department’s Twitter page, Brookline police suggested residents follow their blog and sign up for local alerts via crimereports.com.

Some asked if residents could also sign-up for the BU alerts. but Robbins said the e-mail and text system is only available to the BU community, but suggested residents follow the department on Twitter and Facebook.

Some also asked about ways to improve outdoor lighting in the area. A town public works official said Brookline has a plan, pending further town approval, to retrofit 3,600 street lights town-wide with LED bulbs, which can cover a larger area with light. If approved, the project would upgrade about 900 street lights per year over a four-year span starting this summer.

O’Leary also suggested residents and business owners install motion-activated lighting in areas of concern that are on private property, like dark driveways and other outdoor parking areas.

The meeting drew about 100 people and was called to respond to a recent string of robberies in the area, the most recent of which resulted in a non-fatal stabbing.

Since late September, 10 robberies or attempted robberies, most at gunpoint, have been reported in a concentrated area around BU’s campus, according to police. Seven people have been arrested. Their charges connect them to a total of four incidents.

Three of the reported incidents happened in Boston; seven in North Brookline.

But, two of the seven reported incidents that occurred in Brookline have only been disclosed by town police within the past week, even though both incidents reportedly happened in the fall.

One was revealed during a presentation town police gave at Monday’s meeting: a reported attempted robbery of a person's purse occurred at about 10:40 p.m. on Nov. 8 in the area of 25 Gibbs St. No arrests have been made in connection with that incident.

“I just found out tonight that there was a robbery right next door to me,” one resident of Gibbs Street stood up and said during Monday’s meeting. “It’s really disturbing to find out two months later.”

The other previously-undisclosed robbery, which was reportedly occurred on Oct. 7, went unmentioned at Monday’s meeting, but has been confirmed by Brookline police who provided the information to the Globe after residents contacted the Globe recently to say they had heard about the incident second-hand, but no direct word have ever come to police.

Brookline Police explained they had not mentioned the incident previously because a subsequent investigation ultimately found no evidence that the robbery had ever happened because the victim, who is “known” to police “changed his story a few times.”

“I can't say it did not happen, but it certainly looks like something we have no evidence of,” said an e-mail from police department spokesman Lieutenant Phil Harrington.

According to police logs, officers responded to Beacon and St. Paul streets shortly after 1 p.m. on Oct. 7. There, a man reported that about a half hour earlier near St. Paul and Freeman streets, two men had robbed him and hit him with a bat. He told police his cigarettes, wallet and Walkman portable audio player were stolen. The report said the man was hospitalized.

The report said the man described two assailants as Hispanic males. One was described as being in his 20s, about 5 foot, 7 inches, with black hair, a goatee, a gray Nike shirt. The other was described as being about 5 foot, 5 inches, with a mustache, Nike sneakers, jeans and Celtics T-shirt.

That robbery was the fourth reported in that area during a two-and-a-half week span. Two days later, another robbery was reported in Boston at 808 Commonwealth Ave. The day after that robbery, Brookline police held a press conference and discussed four robberies in detail, never mentioning the Oct. 7 report.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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