(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
They can been seen late at night or early in the morning, sometimes in a pack and sometimes just one alone on the corner.
Residents in Dorchester are fed up with what they say is “rampant” prostitution in their neighborhood, especially along Dorchester Avenue.
“I wake up in the morning, and I see them out there when the kids are going to school,” said Gail Stapleton, a life-long resident of Dorchester. “There are fights sometimes. It’s just so sad.”
Stapleton’s story was not all that different from that of many other residents who turned out for a public meeting Monday night at the St. Mark’s Church on Dorchester Avenue. The gathering brought out nearly 100 residents, a slew of elected officials, and members of the police department.
“Every time I drove up Dorchester Avenue, I saw at least one prostitute on the avenue and it could be at any time,” said Dorchester City Councilor Frank Baker, who organized the meeting. “It’s a quality-of-life issue, and I don’t want us to become numb to this.”
Residents from Boston Street to Ashmont voiced strong concerns about what is happening along the avenue, some saying it’s never been like this, others just looking for solutions.
“It is and has been an ongoing issue,” Boston Police District C-11 Captain Richard Sexton told the crowd. “We hear the stories about the activity going on in your neighborhood, but the more enforcement on the avenue the more we push them out into the neighborhoods. I wish I had the answer. ... We’re going to have to try to attack it from all angles.”
BPD Superintendent William Evans said police districts will work together to confront the problem.
“The problem is when C-11 pushes it, it goes into South Boston,” Evans said. “What we have to do is have a duel strategy, and in Dorchester and South Boston we need to hit it hard.”
Evans added that while resources are stretched thin, BPD is committed to curtailing the problem.
“I’ll get the gang and drug unit together, and over the next couple of weeks we’ll pump as many resources in as we can,” he said.
Although the police can attack the problem with enforcement and through undercover work to target both prostitutes and johns, the community was also looking for its own solutions.
Some suggested a public shame campaign, posting photos of the prostitutes and their purchasers in local newspapers.
“The best way to approach this is through enforcement, but also shame,” said state Senator Jack Hart, who represents portions of Dorchester and South Boston. “The idea would be to create as much of a deterrent as possible.”
Other suggestions included using light up traffic billboards, often seen at the Neponset Circle and other construction sites, to display a message to the johns and prostitutes that their type of business is not welcom in the neighborhood.
Many residents and advocates said the problem goes back to the lack of social resources and the scourge of drugs in the neighborhood and greater city.
“People’s lives are very complicated and it’s not a simple solution here,” said Cherie Jimenez, from the Family Justice Center, a nonprofit organization that works to support victims of abuse. “It’s a long-term solution. There are absolutely things that will work but it takes a lot of resources. They [the prostitutes] need safety and a way out.”
Many residents nodded in agreement, acknowledging that many of the prostitutes have suffered violence or battle drug addiction.
“We need to look at the men's side, and we need to find ways to get resources to these women,” said Edward Geary Jr.