(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
The killing of a 39-year-old man in Fields Corner, allegedly by a 14-year-old Dorchester resident, has stirred alarm among community residents.
They say such violence has become all-too-common in the neighborhood. On Monday night, about 75 residents gathered at the Viet-Aid Center on Charles Street to press police about what more can be done to stem the violence.
"I'm terrified to walk around this corner [Tonawanda Street and Geneva Avenue]," said Lee Adelson, 54, a Fields Corner resident.
On Monday, 14-year-old Ernest Watkins IV was charged in the stabbing death of a 39-year-old Cherby LaJoie. Authorities say LaJoie resisted when a group of teenagers tried to rob him near the Fields Corner MBTA station Oct. 6.
From Sept. 27 to Oct. 7 three people were killed in the neighborhood, one on Geneva Avenue, one on Park Street, and one on Charles Street, according to police.
A man was also shot to death on Dakota Street July 25, and there have been five robberies reported in the area in the past 30 days.
“All these are still under investigation,” said Captain Richard Sexton, commander of BPD's C-11 office.
Residents have also raised concerns about robberies targeting Vietnamese residents, but Sexton said BPD hasn’t found evidence to support allegations that the victims were targeted because of their ethnicity.
“There has been some concern in the Fields Corner area that Vietnamese and Asian folks have been targeted for robberies,” Sexton told the crowd. “I said the last time we were here I didn’t think that was the case, based on the reports we were getting.”
Sexton said reports were forwarded to BPD’s Civil Rights Unit, which handles cases involving racial and ethnic bias, and no evidence was found that showed bias in the attacks.
Thirty-seven percent of robbery victims in the area for the past year were black, 23 percent were Asian, 20 percent were white, and 14 percent were Hispanic, according to Sexton.
“We believe at this point that its reflective of the demographics of the neighborhood,” Sexton said.
He was joined by other representatives from BPD and the MBTA Transit Police, who spoke with residents about what is being done in the neighborhood to quell violence near the T station and surrounding area.
Residents pushed for additional surveillance cameras around the neighborhood's T station. Many said they are uncomfortable walking to the station at night and cameras would help.
“I was raised on Charles Street. I take the T every day and I would like to be able to walk from my house to the T,” said Rosa Puello, 43. “How far do the cameras go? Is it safe for me to walk all the way to Tonawanda Street?”
From calling 911 to communicating with neighbors, residents shared their suggestions for ways of calming down the streets.
“To stop this we need to connect,” said Ed Geary Jr., a member of the Fields Corner Main Street. “We need to have every one of the same page.”
Geary touted his group’s information packet for businesses, which provides important tips for identifying suspicious activity, how to report it and ways to connect with neighborhood resources.
Dorchester City Councilor Frank Baker also saw communication as an important step to stemming the crime. Baker suggested a Red Line task force be created to bring the entire Dorchester community together.
“It might be something worth looking at to deal with issues around the T,” said Baker.
Others in attendance were supportive of the task force and a community, corridor-wide effort.
“I think people would be willing to collaborate to make the community better,” said Nam Phan, executive director of Viet-Aid. “We are concerned but we feel the law enforcement is paying attention, but we always need more resources. It would be good to see a redeployment [of law enforcement] in the area.”
While Monday's meeting focused on violent crime, a brief period was devoted to discussing prostitution. A meeting was held last month with local law enforcement, residents and elected officials to determine how to eliminate or reduce activity along Dorchester Avenue.
“We put a little extra effort in, and we are always working on the issue,” said Sexton, who was at last month’s meeting.
Sexton reported that the department has made up to 10 arrests of both prostitutes and purchasers since the meeting.