(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
More than 150 residents packed the Condon Community School auditorium in South Boston to hear top law enforcement officials describe their efforts to stem the drugs and violence that have crept into the neighborhood.
According to data provided by teh police department, 89 arrests, targeting individuals with outstanding warrants, were made from April 16 through June 12 in the neighborhood.
Thursday night's meeting was the second public safety meeting held in the neighborhood in the recent months as the community tries to tackle a drug and crime problem that many have described as "out of control".
Thursday’s meeting, which brought out Boston Police Department Commissioner Ed Davis, officials with the Drug Enforcement Agency, MBTA Transit Police, and state and local elected officials, comes not only after Coyne’s murder, but a double homicide that took place May 27 on Linskey-Barry Court.
Politicians and police reassured the audience that BPD and other agencies are doing their best to strangle the flow of drugs into the neighborhood.
“I think we are on the right track,” said Senator Jack Hart.
“The message is out there that you can’t play around in South Boston anymore,” said Representative Nick Collins.
Davis highlighted the arrests that have been made and his department’s commitment to bringing the neighborhood’s drug problem under control.
“I recognize that there is a lot more that needs to be done than just arrests," said Davis. "The behavior we’ve seen here will not be tolerated,”
Davis said a “day-time drug unit” has been deployed along with bike patrols on East and West Broadway and foot patrols in Andrew Square, making good on the department's promise to step up enforcement in the neighborhood.
To view the complete list of arrests, click here.
Many in attendance said the arrests and stepped up police presence is welcome news.
“The change is unbelievable,” commented Helen Alex, an Andrew Square resident and life-long South Boston resident.
Although the stepped up effort is something many said is a good move, the patrols aren’t sustainable. After the meeting Davis acknowledged that the added police presence has had to take resources from other areas in the department and because of that won’t be permanent.
“[The resources will stay] through the summer and we are going to review it at the end of the summer, but if the problem persists the resources are going to stay here,” said Davis.
Even with the potential of the patrols leaving the neighborhood a group of residents are making sure that their home is prepared and united.
The “We are watching” campaign formed by a group of local women aims to not only get the neighborhood communicating, but watching and making sure they are looking out for all the neighborhood’s children.
“When I grew up in South Boston you knew everyone. You didn’t just have one mother you had a whole neighborhood of mothers,” said Meghan Brown-Cress, one of the organizers of the campaign.
With stickers that in bold letters say “We are Watching” Brown-Cress hopes to have one up in every window in South Boston to let those committing crimes in the neighborhood know that they will be reported.
Brown-Cress also said the campaign is two-fold and aims to get residents, both new and old, communicating.
“The drug problem is only part of it, but there’s an influx of new residents who are scared of the old Southie and the old Southie is scared of the new ones,” said Brown-Cress. “The fence needs to come down and we need to start communicating.”
With the push by BPD many hope to see an end to junkies wandering Andrew Square and criminals breaking into their homes to get a fix. But with the double homicide, possibly fueled by drugs, less than a month ago just blocks from the school where the meeting was held, many are still worried about the drugs and the violence that inevitably follows in their wake.
"Addiction is a disease and the treatment is prevention," said Kay Walsh, director of the South Boston Action Center "These are our kids and they need help."