Crimes, arrests and calls for service are all on the rise in the Mass and Cass area this year, police report as residents grow increasingly frustrated with the Methadone Mile hotel and shelter.
“Public safety and quality of life issues continue to plague the area,” Lt. Peter Messina told South End residents as he presented a slide presentation on the state of the troubled Mass and Cass region. “With the increase in crime, there has been a drastic increase in the number of individuals arrested there.”
Messina, head of the general police awareness and response unit in the area known for its open-air drug market, presented the figures in an appeal to community members on Thursday – showing that “crimes violent” increased by 26% and arrests jumped by 77%.
“The numbers have gone up,” Messina told people gathered virtually for the South End, Newmarket and Roxbury Task Force on Addiction, Recovery and Homelessness, which is hosted by a conglomerate of neighborhood groups.
The jump in violent crime fell from 70 incidents through May 17, 2021 to 88 at this time this year. This translates into small increases in most violent crimes, but larger increases in robberies. There were three homicides at this point last year, but one this year.
He said the previous night someone had been stabbed on Albany Street and the cops had arrested a suspect.
Property crime fell 4%, driven by a drop in theft. The total number of reported crimes in the area sometimes known as the Methadone Mile rose from 249 to 259, an increase of 4%.
But arrests far exceeded those jumps, Messina said. Cops caught 140 people this year, up from 79 at this point last year, he said. He cited some “good arrests” lately, of drug dealers and traffickers.
“We certainly can’t stop to get out of this. We’ve tried in the past, and it doesn’t work,” Messina said, echoing a common refrain around addiction issues. But he said there were too many “revolving doors” of people being arrested and then spat onto the streets.
He said a woman they picked up on active warrants was handcuffed around 10.30am one recent morning and was back on the Mile around 4pm.
“It sends the wrong message to everyone else,” Messina said.
He said the area continues to attract new people because there is a “perception” that “people can openly use drugs openly buy drugs, without any repercussions.”
Messina said 911 calls were also up 41%, suggesting both continued trouble but also a greater willingness of people to call emergency services.
Also at the meeting, several community members said the former Roundhouse Hotel, which the Boston Medical Center took over for temporary housing and other services right in the middle of the area, was causing more problems.
“We get a lot of activity around the Roundhouse,” said Jerry DiPierro, who owns a business next door. He said he regularly sees people finding ways to sell drugs in the area right around the building that is supposed to get people off the streets and into wards.
BMC officials said they would speak to their security team to try to make them more visible.
Steve Fox of neighborhood group South End Forum said it looks like BMC should have a “complete reassessment” of the safety plan at the Roundhouse.
“You should take these comments as the canary in the mine of what we’re going to see as the weather gets warmer,” he said.