In July, Democratic District Attorney candidate Rachael Rollins released what has come to the known as ‘The List,’ which is simply a list of smaller crimes that she has indicated that she would defer prosecution upon if elected.
That’s a list that has made more than a few people in the neighborhoods a little concerned, particularly those in the South End that have been impacted greatly by quality-of-life issues exacerbated by the opioid epidemic.
Many times, it is just those crimes on Rollins’s list that causes the neighborhood to sink or swim under the weight of hundreds of infractions.
However, after she met Monday with the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA), many felt that the list and its coverage in the media had been a little misleading as to how she actually felt.
“What I think people think is controversial about that list is what is happening every day in court already,” she said. “One thing people don’t like to hear is that the legal system doesn’t work for everybody. The largest group it doesn’t work for is poor people. It has nothing to do with your color. It’s if you are wealthy, things work better for you. I want the playing field to be even…I want us to focus on violent, serious crimes. There have been eight homicides in two weeks in Boston and only two arrests…I want to see that we aren’t focusing our resources prosecuting petty crimes or quality-of-life crimes as opposed to getting these folks services and holding them accountable that way.”
She also did say that she isn’t against holding people accountable, noting, “I don’t believe in the broken windows theory, but I’m not saying I don’t believe in arresting or holding people accountable for what they do. I just want room to understand accountability does not necessarily mean incarceration.”
‘The List’ has gained national and local attention, and it includes declining prosecution on trespassing, shoplifting, larceny under $250, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, receiving stolen property, breaking and entering a vacant property (only on a vacant property where it is for the purpose of sleeping or seeking refuge), wanton/malicious destruction of property, threats (excluding domestic violence), minor in possession of alcohol, minor driving offenses, drug possession, drug possession with intent to distribute, and a stand-along resisting arrest.
WSANA President George Stergios kicked off the long-awaited discussion with Rollins and explained the nervousness in the neighborhood over her proposed policy. He said that they are inundated with these quality-of-life crimes to the point of being overrun. If charges are declined on these matters, he said they were concerned the police would not respond when someone is shooting up drugs on their stoop, stealing from the corner store, or dealing drugs in the open.
He said no one in the neighborhood wants to see anyone go to jail for these kinds of offenses, but they also don’t want to create a de facto legalization of them either.
“What people are anxious about is even now if someone is shooting up drugs or dealing drugs in our alleys, if we called the police, it’s an occasional priority,” he said. “What we wonder is if we call the police, and we take this power away, and they don’t do anything and it becomes a growing problem…We’re worried about this becoming some kind of decriminalization and no one will take it seriously and it will be worse and worse.”
Rollins said she understands the nervousness, but said this is only a way of diverting people if they aren’t repeat offenders. She said it’s a way of giving someone a chance before they develop a criminal record that can’t be reversed.
“I understand these are petty crimes, but they are only petty when they’re not happening to you,” she said, noting that she has sibling who is struggling with addiction. “We want to divert prior to arraignment…I want to stop and see if we can get help first. As a leader, we will try this and if it doesn’t work, we’ll adjust. I want to make sure jail isn’t the first thing we’re doing.”
She added that she would prosecute if there is a pattern of criminal conduct, noting that if it’s the seventh time someone has shoplifted, then maybe it would be wise to not decline prosecution.
Steve Fox, moderator of the South End Forum, attended the meeting and said he hoped that Rollins would focus attention on the neighborhood.
“We understand the value of pre-arraignment diversion,” he said. “We also need more focus on this crisis in this neighborhood and this geography. We need you to join us in finding solutions.”
WSANA Vice President Bob Minnocci said he believes the list has been widely misunderstood.
“Your platform on this is too easily misunderstood,” he said. “You need to re-write it.”
Rollins is running against Independent candidate Michael Maloney in the Nov. 6 General Election.
- The developers of the Alexandra Hotel appeared before WSANA on Tuesday night to discuss their proposal for the hotel, which includes saving the historic façade, and creating a new 12-story building behind it that would hold a 150-room hotel and two restaurants – one on the roof and one on the ground floor.
CBT Architects presented the plan to neighbors for developers Tom Caulus and Jas Bhogal, who have recently done high-end redevelopments in Bay Village and Ft. Point.
Height has been an issue in other presentations of the project, but it wasn’t such an issue at WSANA on Tuesday.
“It’s going to take some height to make this work,” said Vickie Alani of CBT. “The goal is we walk away at the end of this and the community walks up to it and feels it’s fantastic.”
Community meetings will continue, and Attorney Marc LaCasse said they are feeling out the neighborhood to see if there is support before they file officially with the City. He said they would like to be under construction in the summer of 2019 and be complete in 20 months.