Major crime in most of Jamaica Plain dropped by about 8 percent last year—though burglaries were way up—according to statistics reported at the E-13 Police’s annual State of the District meeting last month.
Also announced to applause was the news that E-13 commander Capt. Kelley McCormick’s recent operation to donate a kidney to his wife was successful.
“It’s not uncommon to see Capt. McCormick walking the streets of the neighborhood, meeting and greeting everyone he encounters,” said acting commander Lt. Paul Ivens, an E-13 shift commander and former head of the department’s bomb squad. “If you haven’t met him yet, you will in the near future.”
Ivens said McCormick is expected to return sometime early next month.
The State of the District meeting, held Feb. 28 at English High School, is an E-13 community policing tradition. E-13 covers most of JP except for the Forest Hills area.
Among the roughly 70 people in attendance was Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. State Rep. Liz Malia noted that about a decade ago, Davis, then chief of the Lowell Police Department, was invited to speak to E-13 activists as an expert on community policing. She called his appearance at the State of the District a “full circle” return.
“I think it’s great that the captain is maintaining this tradition of reporting back to the community,” Davis told the Gazette. He later told the audience, “We are only as good as our relationship with you.”
“To walk in and see the commissioner standing here is terrific,” City Councilor John Tobin told the Gazette. “He said he was going to come up [to Boston] and shake things up, and he’s done it.”
One of Davis’s major shake-ups is creating new, neighborhood-based police commands where deputy superintendents oversee a few patrol districts. E-13 is now overseen by Deputy Superintendent Darrin Greeley, a former E-13 sergeant detective who was active in such community policing efforts as the JP Problem Properties Committee.
“Things have started to change for the better” under this new system, Davis told the Gazette, citing the dropping crime rate and a closer connection to the community.
Davis is also a major proponent of having officers walking neighborhood beats. A few residents at the meeting complained about a lack of police visibility in Hyde, Jackson and Egleston squares.
“Our commitment is to put more officers in uniforms on the street so they get to know you,” Davis said, adding that three new classes will graduate from the police academy this year, and all will hit the streets on beats.
“We are going to get additional officers here at E-13,” Ivens said. “The exact number I cannot tell you at this time.” He said E-13 now has 68 patrol officers, which does not include detectives and other specialized officers.
“Right now, unfortunately, we don’t have enough manpower,” Ivens said.
Michael Halle, chair of E-13’s Traffic and Parking Committee, suggested more bicycle patrols. Ivens said E-13 now has only one bicycle officer, but more are possible when staff increases.
“Part 1” crime—violent crime and property theft—in 2006 was down in every category except burglary from the year before. The rate still reflects thousands of incidents.
One of the biggest drops was in auto theft, from 457 incidents in 2005 to 291 last year. There was only one homicide in E-13 last year, compared to four in 2005.
Some other categories dropped only slightly. There were 138 robberies in 2005, and 130 last year.
The only increase was a 19 percent spike in burglaries, from 243 in 2005 to 289 last year. However, burglary arrests are also up: 42 in 2006 compared to 29 in 2005.
Commercial burglaries skyrocketed in 2005, remained a concern last year and are still a problem in the Hyde/Jackson squares area.
Rafael Benzan, president of Hyde/Jackson Square Main Streets, and Fernando Mercedes, president of the Hyde/Jackson Business Association, both complained about the ongoing problem.
Community Service Officer Carlos Lara said police are continuing their work on the burglaries, including helping businesses improve security and using plainclothes patrols. “We have matched DNA on two different break-ins,” he told Benzan after the meeting.
Police are also tackling the problem, previously reported in the Gazette, of other business owners buying goods stolen in the burglaries. An informational poster about not buying stolen goods will soon go up, Lara said.
The crime stats showed that calls for police help were up in 2006, and so were arrests. The police cited that as evidence of an improved connection to residents.
Traffic ticket stats showed that E-13 has its share of scofflaws. In 2006, officers issued 11,518 moving violations—more than 30 a day—and 12,626 parking tickets.
Joseph Porcelli, a JP resident and coordinator with the police Neighborhood Crime Watch Unit, noted that JP has 89 crime watch groups. “That is the most in the whole city,” he said.
Porcelli said a major initiative this year is organizing crime watches into the “coalition model,” where clusters of neighboring crime watches get to know each other and share information.
He also promised improvements to the www.bostoncrimewatch.com web site, and urged residents to sign up for the Citizen Observer service, which sends important crime alerts via e-mail or text messages (see www.citizenobserver.com).
Porcelli received an E-13 award of appreciation, as did Jane Boyer of the Boston Elderly Commission.
The meeting featured several E-13 programs and services that residents may not know of or expect from a police station. They include:
• Jamaica Plain Traffic and Parking Committee: meets monthly for short- and long-term solutions to traffic problems.
• Jamaica Plain Citizens-Police Alliance: an anti-graffiti program that offers free paint to anyone who wants to help paint over tags on public property.
• Problem Properties Committee: monitors private property with repeated code violations or crime problems.
• Youth Services: connects youths to a variety of public and private programs.
• Juvenile Justice: helps children in trouble in courts, schools or homes.
• Senior Service: connects seniors to a variety of programs for virtually any problem.
• Mediation Services: mediates any non-criminal dispute, including neighborhood and family problems.
• Security surveys: free for any resident or business owner.
For more information on any E-13 program, see www.e13bpd.com or contact a Community Service Officer at 343-5624. For police help, always call 911 (on a cell phone, 343-4911).
E-13 has several Spanish-speaking officers. While the meeting was held in both English and Spanish, E-13’s literature about its programs and its web site are still English-only. (The web site uses an automatic translation program that is not fully reliable.) Lara said translations are in the works.