Parts of South Boston are still beset by drugs and crime, but police and some residents say efforts to stem the problems appear to be working.
About 50 residents, advocates, and officials gathered Tuesday night at the Condon School’s cafeteria to discuss how to improve conditions after a summer filled with arrests, raids, and bloodshed.
Between April and June, four residents were murdered. Many believed the violence stemmed from drugs, especially prescription pills, in the neighborhood.
According to the most recent data provided by the police department, crime in District C-6, South Boston’s police district, is down 11 percent from 2011.
Rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and murder, however, all are slightly up from last year. Larceny and vehicle thefts are both down.
“We’ve thrown a lot of resources at the problem since April,” Lieutenant Detective Robert Merner, commander of BPD’s Drug Control Unit, told residents. “I know I’m not going to solve the drug problem, but I think we can make an impact.”
Merner cited 289 individuals brought before the courts by his officers, the majority of which were on drugs charges, along with the raids conducted in coordination with other departments.
“The drug users are the ones breaking into cars,” Merner said. “Some of the things we’ve done in the last four-months have alleviated the problems.”
From raiding drug dealers’ operations to tracking doctors writing the prescriptions and the pharmacies filling them, Merner said the department and his unit, which also includes a “day-time drug unit”, have been concentrating on South Boston.
Merner also said his office has been working with public health workers to tackle both aspects of the issue.
“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” he said. “People need help.”
South Boston has the highest opioid mortality rate of any neighborhood in the city, according to data release by the Boston Public Health Commission in 2011. It is also home to two methadone clinics, which work to rehabilitate heroin and opioid addicts.
BPD’s enforcement also includes units deployed to certain areas of South Boston, such as Andrew Square and West and East Broadway.
“I live in Andrew Square and the place is 80 percent better,” one resident told Merner.
Others said they still need help.
“People are afraid to go out,” said an elderly West Broadway resident, who did not want to give her name. “We don’t know what to do to get them [drug dealers] out. They’re afraid of the kids in their hallways.”
Last week, BPD raided the D Street Housing Development, which resulted in the arrest of 14 individuals, the majority on drug charges.
“Usually, if we have a problem hundreds of people come out, not that we don’t still have some difficulties, but the police have done a terrific job,” said state Senator Jack Hart, who resides in South Boston. “We sent the message to drug dealers and drug users that they can't do business in the neighborhood anymore.”