Though crime has dropped in an impressive way on paper over the last six weeks, D-4 Capt. Steve Sweeney said it doesn’t mean that there is any shortage of frustration on the beat – including good investigations that have been lost in courthouse policy.
Sweeney appeared on Tuesday night before the first online Blackstone/Franklin Neighborhood Association meeting, which saw about 35 participants at its peak and was deemed a success in the same way last week’s online Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) was as well.
“Crime is down, but at the same time we had three commercial breaks last night (May 4),” he said. “We arrested a guy, Josh Silverman, for three breaks a couple of days ago. He was arrested yesterday, and then released yesterday. He’s a serial B&E guy. We think he did the one Monday night. You see Commissioner Gross on TV talking about this. We need help from the courts.”
Sweeney said that isn’t a common thing that happens, but it is frustrating when police put together a good investigation, and then it’s thwarted by a suspect being released due to the current court protocols.
“I’m certainly getting e-mails from my department higher-ups upsets by this,” he said. “You spend a lot of hours on an investigation and with good police work catch the person. We put out fliers and were asking for help IDing that person. They want corroboration so you don’t get the wrong person. It’s expensive. Detectives come in on the midnight shift to process the scene…To do that several times is a lot of work…It’s aggravating.”
The overall picture looks really good though, he said, even if on a day-to-day operations level it seems rather crazy.
He said overall crime is down 26 percent compared to last year.
“That is huge and is kind of unheard of,” he said. “A lot of that goes down to Newbury Street and Boylston Street being closed…Even with that taken out, we’re down 10 percent which is really good.”
Car breaks are one area in D-4 that Sweeney said he thought would be on the up given the closure of stores and desperation by the criminal element. It hasn’t been the case in D-4 though. Last year at this time, there were 143 breaks, but now there are 116. The five-year average at this time of year is 186.
Yet at the same time they are finding crimes that outsize the perception.
In one of the three breaks on Monday, someone wearing a construction vest broke into a Suffolk Construction site on Shawmut and Herald Streets. The person took laptops, and then left the scene with them hidden in an empty baby carriage. He was caught though by police.
Meanwhile, at 4 a.m. on Monday, they also experienced a scary shots fired call on Hammond Street. Officers recovered 13 shell casings, meaning someone fired a lot of shots in the area. It was only the second shots fired call in D-4 this year, with the other happening on Kilmarnock Street in Fenway last month.
A final frustration was a situation where a woman on Dwight Street left her home for a walk, going out the back door and leaving it open. Her husband was inside asleep at the time and someone came in the back door and took his phone. That suspect fled the scene and began calling numbers on the phone. Eventually, he was able to reach the wife and demanded cash to get the phone back. Sweeney said police were able to track the phone to Franklin Square, where they arrested the man in the act.
Unfortunately, the phone wasn’t very valuable, and police weren’t able to charge him with anything other than a minor charge – not being able to prove he broke into the home.
“It’s a safe neighborhood, but issues arise in a city,” he said. “I’m going to let you know crime is down, but I’m also going to let you know the challenges we face too.”
Beyond that, several from Blackstone were wondering what the police would be doing on this week’s mandate to wear face coverings when outside and not able to socially distance.
Sweeney said they are going to educate, and won’t be fining people or dragging them off to jail. He said they might get on the loudspeaker to disperse people or let them know they need a face covering.
“We’re not dragging 20 people off a soccer field or getting in fistfights with people,” he said.
Mayoral Liaison Faisa Sharif said face coverings would start to become more important as the City begins to think about how to re-open some businesses. She said anyone having a business where people walk around would be required to wear a mask or face covering when things re-open.
“I do think we need to come to the understanding this will be part of our life for the reasonable future,” she said.
“Our big thing is businesses will be required to have face coverings on,” she continued. “If you have people coming into your business you need to be wearing a face covering and that means covering your nose and mouth when you interact with people.”
Sharif said they are looking for ideas about how to open responsibly in Boston, and she said many good ideas right now are coming to the City from the public.
•Blackstone has been very active in giving to neighborhood concerns, and already have dispersed about $7,000, said Treasurer Matt Mues. They have donated $2,500 to the South End Feeds charity to help local restaurants by providing funding for them to send meals to front-line medical workers. They have also given $1,000 to Haley House for their meals effort and gift cards to Foodie’s for needy families in the St. Stephens Youth Programs.
“I see no reason for us to be hoarding money at a time when the world is hurting,” said Mues.
•President David Stone mentioned that the meeting on Tuesday was a warm-up for the General Meeting to be held on May 19. That meeting will feature a vote of the officers for the Association, among other action items – including dogs in the Squares.
Stone said he felt the meeting went well on Tuesday, and they looked forward to having another online gathering on May 19.