Crime

DA: Expect arrests on a ‘rolling basis’ in coming weeks related to offenses around Mass and Cass. 

“They will be held accountable for the harm they have caused.”

People crowd together on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard in April 2020.

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins announced Monday that dozens of individuals are facing charges in connection with offenses in the area of the city known as “Mass and Cass,” sharing that her office expects more arrests on a “rolling basis” in the coming weeks as authorities work to address the rise in violent and serious crimes in the area related to the opioid crisis.

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For several years, South End and Roxbury residents and community members have been raising concerns about worsening impacts from the crisis in the area surrounding Mass. Ave. and Melnea Cass Boulevard, where shelters and services offer support to those dealing with addiction and homelessness. The area has seen more people navigating substance use disorder, mental health issues, and homelessness arriving in recent years, seeking help from service providers around the stretch of city blocks known disparagingly for years as “Methadone Mile.” The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue by shutting down services in the region, leaving local residents with heightened concerns about the increase in incidents of human waste and refuse left on private and public property, improperly discarded needles, overdoses, and drug dealing in the area. 

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Rollins said in a press release on Monday that arrest warrants have been issued for more than 40 individuals in municipal courts for offenses allegedly committed in the Newmarket Square area. The DA said the arrests are a result of an ongoing collaboration between her office’s Crime Strategies Bureau and the Boston Police Department Drug Control Unit. 

“Through this focused collaboration between the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the Boston Police Department, we have identified a number of individuals who we believed are responsible for driving the violence, profiting off of people’s pain, and causing significant harm to our community,” Rollins said in a statement. “They will be held accountable for the harm they have caused.

“The issues facing the Newmarket Square community will not be resolved overnight,” Rollins wrote. “But the efforts that my office has undertaken in partnership with Boston Police and our community partners are beginning to pay dividends, both long- and short-term.”

In addition to those facing charges in municipal court, Rollins announced that last week a Suffolk County grand jury returned a total of 36 indictments against three individuals, arrested earlier in the year, for offenses allegedly committed in the area of Mass. and Cass. Each of the men are “accused of preying on and profiting from the vulnerability, desperation and afflictions of others,” Rollins said. 

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Prosecutors’ efforts in the area are focused on holding individuals accountable for criminal offenses, while ensuring that people struggling with substance use disorder, poverty or homelessness, and mental health issues continue to have access to community-based services and treatment, Rollins said. The DA’s office has partnered with Boston Municipal Court, Department of Probation and Boston Medical Center to start the Boston Outpatient Assisted Treatment (BOAT) program, a grant-funding initiative that offers eligible individuals facing criminal charges in municipal court “intense social, mental health and substance use disorder services” to help them achieve recovery and “avoid hospitalization and incarceration.”

The district attorney called substance use disorder a public health crisis and stressed that it cannot be solved through prosecution.

“Law enforcement is not equipped to address the service needs of those suffering from substance use disorder, mental illness, emotional harm and trauma, and other crises,” Rollins said. “We need all of our partners in every level of government and public health institutions and leaders across the state to join us in addressing both this public health crisis and the significant harm created by those who prey on the desperation and vulnerability of others.”

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The DA’s office is urging anyone who witnesses a crime to call 911. Anyone seeking treatment for substance use or for a loved one can call the Massachusetts Substance Use Hotline at 800-327-5050 or the City of Boston’s Office of Recovery Services

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