Malden responds to gun violence with wide-ranging police sweep

On Sept. 10, a 17-year-old boy riding a bicycle was shot and seriously wounded in the parking lot of the Sun Kong restaurant on Eastern Avenue in Malden.
On Sept. 10, a 17-year-old boy riding a bicycle was shot and seriously wounded in the parking lot of the Sun Kong restaurant on Eastern Avenue in Malden.
Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

In response to four episodes of gun violence that peaked Sept. 10 when a teenager was shot — allegedly by another teen — in daylight on a busy street, police from seven communities and two regional departments swept through Malden parks and common areas Friday night looking for drugs and guns, city officials said.

No one was arrested and no weapons were found, but police confiscated a small amount of marijuana and said the sweep sent a message to Malden’s criminal element that the city will not tolerate violence.

“This to me was more about perception than it was about looking to make actual arrests,” said Mayor Gary Christenson, who made public safety one of the focuses of his campaign when he was elected in November 2011.

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The operation was deemed a success, and feedback from residents has been positive. “The only request was to maintain [the efforts] moving forward, which is what our plan is in the coming weeks and months,” Christenson said.

The expansive police action was described by the city as a convoy of police cars that hop-scotched from park to park over the course of several hours before finally concluding after midnight Saturday. Police Chief James Holland said the operation, which utilized police dog units from Woburn and Winchester, would not cost the Malden department extra money. It was considered mutual aid, which gives local public safety officials access to others’ resources when a large response is required.

“When they got to all of these locations, most of them were clear,” Holland said. The effort was “just to see if there were any stashes around.”

In addition to police from Malden, the cities of Chelsea, Everett, Medford, Revere, Saugus, Somerville, and Winchester sent officers to join troopers from the State Police and deputies from the Middlesex and Essex sheriffs’ offices. The State Police Airwing Section was on standby, and personnel from the Metro North Gang Task Force also helped, according to Christenson’s office.

In total, 16 police dogs were out sniffing for narcotics. Holland, who said officers had performed a similar sweep last year, said he plans more operations in the coming weeks, but declined to give specifics.

Miller Park, Tartikoff Park, Roosevelt Park, South Broadway Park, the Linden School Lot and Park, Ferryway School and Park, and Lincoln Commons were part of the operation, the city said. Loiterers also were cleared from the Malden Center T station.

The flurry of gun violence in Malden began Aug. 12, when a 17-year-old was shot in the ankle at Willow Street skate park while fleeing an unknown assailant. No arrests have been made in that case, and the victim recovered.

On Aug. 18, another man was shot and critically wounded in the early-morning hours outside the Ferryway School. He survived the shooting, and no arrest has been made.

About 12 hours later on the same day, in an unrelated incident, one man shot another on Middlesex Avenue in the parking lot of Ryan’s Amusements. Daniel Rossetti, 21, of Medford, was arrested in what police allege was a dispute over a woman. Rossetti, who was charged with assault with intent to murder, is being held without bail until his next court appearance on Tuesday. The victim survived what were described as life-threatening injuries.

The shooting Sept. 10, in the parking lot of the Sun Kong restaurant on Eastern Avenue, nearly took the life of the 17-year-old victim, who police said was riding a bike when he was shot. Doctors expect he will carry a bullet lodged next to his aorta for the rest of his life because it is too dangerous to remove it, according to court documents.

Tyrell Berberena Jr., 17, of Malden, was charged in that case, and police are investigating a possible link with the Tiny Rascals Gang.

Berberena, whose attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf on charges of armed assault with intent to murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and carrying a loaded firearm without a license, was ordered held on $250,000 bail.

Following the first three shootings, Christenson at a monthly public safety meeting pledged to boost police ranks by three officers, to 81; assign two more officers to the anticrime unit to create a five-person team; and purchase $120,000 worth of surveillance equipment and two $15,000 unmarked cruisers.

Christenson also vowed to upgrade the city’s wireless network to accommodate the increase in data from the cameras, and said he would reopen the debate over resident permit parking, which had been discussed in the past as a way of tracking out-of-town visitors as well as a revenue source.

The equipment costs are expected to be absorbed in a capital improvement plan that will include at least $150,000 for the cameras, cruisers, and license plate readers.

Ward 6 City Councilor Neil C. Kinnon, who keeps a close tally of crime rates in the city, said that while overall daily incidents are declining, robberies, aggravated assaults, and weapon confiscations are up. Kinnon, who remains critical of the Christenson budget passed in June, praised the mayor’s response to the recent violence and pledged his support to the anticrime plan.

“It’s not time to panic. It is disturbing, but some people would have you say the sky is falling,” Kinnon said. “Do we need to take action? We absolutely need to take action. But I think the mayor has outlined, from what I see, a good plan.”