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Mayor-elect Walsh talks education, crime at Mattapan/Dorchester community meeting

Posted by Patrick Rosso  November 19, 2013 02:39 PM

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Martin J. Walsh has not officially taken office, but when he stopped by the Police Department’s District B-3 monthly community meeting Monday night residents had plenty of issues they hoped the new mayor would tackle.

“Mayor Menino has done a lot of work with this neighborhood…and you’re going to see me out here as well,” Walsh told the crowd of close to 150 Mattapan and Dorchester residents.

For those who talked with Walsh and among themselves Monday night, there was a litany of issues in the neighborhood that concerned residents.

“We need more housing, but we also need good, affordable housing,” said Jessica Graham, a 33-year-old Dorchester resident with her three daughters. “Someone needs to get rid of the slumlords -- it’s terrible.”

Others wanted Walsh to continue the approach on policing put in place by outgoing mayor Thomas M. Menino.

“Community policing works,” said Efon Elad, a 60-year-old Dorchester resident.

Crime in the police district that covers both Mattapan and portions of Dorchester has dropped, according to the most recent data provided by BPD. The murder rate in the district is half of what it was compared to this time last year and the community has also seen a drop in rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and vehicle theft.

“We need to talk about crime and what to do about it. Community policing has worked and has made an impact, but we need to look for ways to build upon it,” Elad added.

Although Walsh chatted with residents after the meeting, the majority of his interaction with his new constituents came during a brief question and answer period.

Residents seemed less concerned with the outcome of the mayor’s race and more concerned with the promises made to the neighborhood.

“We need to equalize our schools across the city, but that is not happening,” local resident Mary Burke told Walsh.

Although there wasn’t time to get into the details of Walsh’s plans to revamp public education in the city, he did say he has a plan to look at school facilities and academics from “0 to the 12th grade.”

Janae Creechmoise, a 13-year-old Dorchester resident and student at the Edward Brooke Charter School, wanted to know why her school outperforms BPS schools and how they can be equalized.

“I think he has good intentions,” Creechmoise said after the meeting. “Kids need something to do afterschool, we need things that keep us active.”

Violence in the neighborhood was also at the forefront for many Monday night.

“Crime is a huge issue,” explained Cozia Nicholson, a 67-year-old Dorchester resident. “The kids need somewhere to go. He [Walsh] spoke about education and the trades, and we need that.”

Walsh also scored points with the audience for mentioning his support for both trauma counseling and for tackling crime recidivism rates.

“The police do the best they can do, but we have to go deeper than that,” said Walsh. “We need to look at prevention…If we don’t fix the trouble while it is away, it’s going to come back and create more trouble.”

As the meeting came to a close and Walsh shuffled out of the room promising he’d be back for next month's meeting, residents discussed their hopes for the new mayor.

“I liked a lot of what he had to say,” said Kim Odom, a member of Redefining Our Communities, a community building organization. “All this talk is wonderful, but we’re tired of talking and ready for implementation.”

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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