With summer right around the corner, Elizabeth Bertolozzi, president of the Fenway Garden Society, has been gearing up for an exciting season outside and in the Fenway Victory Gardens. But one thing she has noticed is a larger presence of police enforcement and services within the gardens, helping those in need and stopping unwanted activity before it happens.
“Safety issues have always been a big challenge at times,” said Bertolozzi.
This year, Bertolozzi said she has seen a bigger presence of police after speaking to the new D-4 Captain Steven Sweeney and has seen an uptick of service workers from the Pine Street Inn coming into the Fens to check up on people who might need help.
“These guys are in touch with us every single day,” said Bertolozzi. “They are trying to support us as best they can and we realize that they have limited resources, too. This year they really beefed up their attention.”
That has made a big difference so far this year. Bertolozzi said she’s noticed a decline in the amount of vandalism within the gardens.
“There’s a new captain in town,” joked Bertolozzi.
To help stem off even more activity, two security cameras will be placed in public areas near the trash bins in the garden. In the past, the bins have been set on fire, which could have caused damage to the entire parkland if unnoticed.
Bertolozzi said last year they didn’t have an incident but to be cautionary the Fenway Victory Gardens decided to fund the two cameras anyways.
The expectation is that the cameras will be installed in the next few weeks.
“We are an all-volunteer organization and we don’t have 24/7 supervision here,” said Bertolozzi. “Yes, there is the police, the parks department and the fire department, but if something were to happen it would be happenstance that someone calls it in.”
If a fire gets going like it has in the past, Bertolozzi said, it can take out an entire section of the reeds. If someone happened to be sleeping in the reeds she said, “They could be killed.”
With the opioid epidemic reaching every corner of the city, it presents its own unique problems in the gardens, where many people seek refuge throughout the day.
“We understand that the opioid crisis is a vicious cycle,” said Bertolozzi. “We understand it’s not a simple problem, and there are complexities to it.”
If there is someone who is homeless, Bertolozzi said she tries to make an effort to bring them some food and, if needed, reach out to get some help and support.
“If somebody needs help we do what we can,” she said.
Bertolozzi said she hopes to create more of a presence in the gardens with more foot traffic with volunteers and gardeners.
“When you create more presence we push out and create a kind of environment we want. We want to welcome people into the community,” said Bertolozzi. “We want to make sure our space is safe and comfortable – not just in numbers but in community.”