Thursday, May 28, 2009

Neighborhood Meeting on Beacon Hill Crime

A recent spate of robberies on Beacon Hill led to a crime meeting, hosted by the Beacon Hill Civic Association, at the Firehouse on Mt. Vernon Street tonight. I attended along with at least 50 or 60 of my neighbors. Boston Police Captain Bernard O'Rourke, Sargent Tom Lema, the BHCA's Paula O'Keefe, and City Council President Mike Ross were at the head table and addressed the recent incidents.

Some very interesting points from the meeting:

o There are indications that the perpetrators of recent robberies on Beacon Hill (there have been four this year) are members of the new MVP (Most Violent Prophet) gang of high school students. The Boston Police Department has been tracking this group, which tends to focus on the Downtown Crossing area. In the case of the Beacon Hill incidents, it is possible that members of this group came to Beacon Hill.

o Capt. O'Rourke referred to cell phones--especially iPhones and Sidekicks--as a kind of currency for younger individuals. He called them big "status symbols." In many cases, the perpetrators see someone talking on an iPhone and steal the phone from behind.

o While crime overall on Beacon Hill is down this year, compared to last year, there is a sense of unease in the neighborhood of late, certainly represented by those who attended the meeting. Unlike previous robberies in the neighborhood, which were isolated incidents, the recent robberies are unsettling because they could be connected to the issues in Downtown Crossing.

o The best advice I heard from Captain O'Rourke: Most people can sense when "something is wrong" on their street--when people are congregating that "just don't belong"--and residents should not hesitate to dial 9-1-1.

o The most alarming thing I heard came from one of the owners of Charles Street Liquors, who noted that he regularly thwarts shoplifters (he said once a week someone attempts to steal something from his store). In almost all cases, he doesn't call the police, primarily because he often is able to retrieve the stolen merchandise. For this reason, it's pretty clear the neighborhood crime statistics (for shoplifting, at least) are low. The stats are only for crimes that are actually reported. Given that Captain O'Rourke makes changes to patrols based on the data, I find that very worrisome.

Of note, also at the meeting were City Councilor Sal LaMattina and the newly minted Democratic nominee for the 3rd Suffolk Mass. House seat Aaron Michlewitz.

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