Stabbing raises park crime fears

May 15, 2009
By

John Ruch

The severe stabbing of a 16-year-old on April 21 near the Southwest Corridor Park was an unprovoked attack by a group of older teens, according to a written description by the victim’s mother handed out this week at a community meeting about the crime.

Bad enough by itself, that crime is also raising fears of random assaults on the Jamaica Plain section of the Southwest Corridor. A similar group of teens attacked and severely beat a man for no apparent reason on March 13, also near the southern stretch of the Southwest Corridor.

Both cases involve complaints of police jurisdiction confusions—the Southwest Corridor falls under State and MBTA Police patrols—and information mix-ups. In both cases, the general public learned of the crimes not from police, but from the victims or their acquaintances, who decided the community needed to be alerted and contacted the Gazette.

Neither crime appeared in incident reports the Boston Police Department (BPD) provides to the Gazette. Other police agencies do not provide incident reports of any kind to the Gazette or the public at large. At the Gazette’s request, the State Police are looking into the possibility of providing regular incident reports to the Gazette.

A community meeting about the stabbing incident, organized by concerned residents and state Reps. Liz Malia and Jeffrey Sánchez, was held May 11 at JP’s E-13 Police Station. It drew about 35 people and top officials from the BPD, the State Police and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

The meeting engaged the crowd in enthusiasm for forming crime watches and informed residents of the political urgency of keeping funding in the state budget for special State Police patrols in the Southwest Corridor—an annual funding battle that is tougher than ever, Malia said.

The stabbing incident led to immediate funding for some special State Police patrols, including by motorcycle. Those patrols will last through June at the latest, officials said.

But as for the crimes themselves, the meeting failed to clarify some of their controversial aspects, and in some ways added to the confusion. For example, both crimes occurred on City of Boston streets and therefore, according to police officials, should be investigated by BPD. But the State Police are investigating the March 13 beating, and BPD is investigating the April 21 stabbing, officials said.

The March 13 incident was not mentioned by officials at all until a resident asked about it. The lack of crime incident reports also was largely unaddressed. Malia advised residents to attend various police and crime watch meetings, some of which have State Police representatives. The State Police present some type of crime information at the monthly meetings of the Parkland Management Advisory Committee (PMAC), but that group’s meeting locations change, and it comes to JP a maximum of four times a year.

Lt. Richard Houston, acting commander of E-13, said he reviewed more than five months of BPD crime reports for the Southwest Corridor area and saw no other similar crimes.

Houston said police were on special alert in the Southwest Corridor on April 21 because it was the first anniversary of the still-unsolved shooting death of a young man in the Stony Brook T Station area of the park. Officials did not indicate whether they think the dates of the crime are anything more than coincidence.

Beating

As the Gazette previously reported, a 38-year-old JP man was beaten March 13 at 135 Carolina Ave. by a group of teens who emerged from two parked cars.

The man had walked on the Southwest Corridor around 7:30 p.m., then turned onto Carolina while smoking a pipe. The youths approached him, and one asked what he was smoking in the pipe. At least two of the youths then attacked him, leaving him with a broken nose, a concussion and cuts and bruises. The teens did not steal anything from him.

The man told the Gazette at the time that he thought it might have been a gang initiation.

The man expressed frustration that the State Police were investigating the crime under the mistaken notion that it happened on the Southwest Corridor. He expressed even more frustration when, he said, the state trooper said the attack was probably a mugging, even though nothing was taken.

The victim later reported the crime to BPD as well. But, Houston told the Gazette, the BPD determined that the crime indeed happened on the Southwest Corridor, and the State Police are investigating it again.

It is unclear how that determination was made. The victim was clear in his description of the crime location. The Gazette observed what appeared to be the victim’s bloodstains on the sidewalk directly in front of 135 Carolina Ave. a few days later, with no sign of a blood trail from the Southwest Corridor, which is about a block away.

Stabbing

The stabbing victim is a teenaged boy, who suffered partially collapsed lungs from his wounds. He is reportedly recovering quickly at home.

The Gazette does not reveal the identity of juvenile crime victims without their permission. The stabbing victim has not returned a Gazette phone call, and his father has declined to speak on the record about the case.

However, a detailed account of the incident, reportedly written by the victim’s mother, was handed out at the May 11 meeting by neighborhood activist Mary Hannon. The victim’s father also attended the meeting.

On April 21 around 7:45 p.m., the victim and three friends began walking from the Forest Hills T Station up the Southwest Corridor. But the victim then turned back to meet another friend at the station, while the other three teens continued onward.

Around 8 p.m., the victim got a cell phone call from the friend he was about to meet, warning him that a group of “menacing looking youths” was headed his way on the Southwest Corridor. Attempting to avoid them, the victim exited the park at Anson Street.

But he was too late, and was approached there by five older teens who appeared to be Hispanic. The teens asked the victim whether he wanted “to buy some ‘bud,’” a reference to marijuana. Two of the teens then stabbed the victim—one in the left side, one in the right—while the other three watched.

The victim fought back, grabbing one of the teens in a headlock and punching him in the face. The attackers then fled toward the T station.

Thinking he had only been punched, the victim walked to South Street to meet his friends. But then he realized he was bleeding and called 911—reportedly after some business owners declined to help him.

It appears that the victim had no connection with his attackers and did nothing to provoke them. There is no indication that he was robbed.

At the May 11 meeting, the victim’s father reported running into “some confusions” related to the jurisdictions of BPD, who first responded to the call, and the State Police, who are investigating under the supervision of the DA’s Office.

When the Gazette first reported about the stabbing on May 1, a DA’s Office spokesperson said that police could not even determine where the crime scene was because the victim and his friends were supposedly too “intoxicated” to make sense. In fact, the victim and his friends were not intoxicated. The DA’s Office later contacted the Gazette to correct that information, blaming it on a State Police detective mixing up the details of two different cases when talking to the press office.

But even then, the DA’s Office could not specify where the crime occurred. The confusion appears to be rooted in the victim seeing the attackers in the state park; being attacked on a city street; and then calling 911 from another location. The victim was reportedly told at first that both city and state detectives would be working on the case.

Asked about the incorrect “intoxication” information at the meeting, Dan Mulhern, head of the DA’s Office Gang Unit, said only, “Strange things happen sometimes. I don’t know where that quote came from.”

Houston said at the meeting that he received a complaint about a jurisdictional dispute between BPD and the State Police on the case. But, he said, “That never happened.”

“Sometimes [different jurisdictions close to each other] can lead to confusion, and I apologize for that,” said Superintendent Dan Linskey, head of the BPD’s daily operations, at the meeting.

While 911 operators are supposed to be trained in directing Southwest Corridor emergency calls to the right agency, one area resident said she has found that operators often don’t know where the park is. It can also be hard to identify a specific location in the park for an emergency call, she said.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that a 911 call on a cell phone goes straight to the State Police. They can patch callers through to local police forces. But to call BPD directly on a cell phone, callers must dial (617) 343-4911.

The account of the crime from the victim’s mother includes complaints of technology problems, too. BPD investigators were able to access T station security tapes, it said, but did not have the ability to play them. At one point, police made a lengthy attempt to play a DVD of the tapes at the victim’s home, the account says.
Next steps

E-13 Officer Mike Santry, who is known for extraordinary hands-on solutions to neighborhood problems, said he will personally review the security lighting in that part of the park.

Malia is seeking political support for her budget amendment that would fund $250,000 in special State Police patrols in the Southwest Corridor, particularly over the summer. For more information, contact her office at 722-2060.

JP resident Joseph Porcelli, who formerly worked with the BPD Crime Watch unit, offered to use the organizing power of his local Neighbors for Neighbors social networking group to create crime watches and fun anti-crime activities in the area. For more information, see www.NeighborsForNeighbors.org.

Linskey said that anyone who is unsatisfied with police response to any incident can contact him directly at any time at 594-3561.

For information on PMAC and local police/community meetings, see the JP Agenda.

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