Community unbowed after recent shootings

August 27, 2010
By

David Taber

EGLESTON SQ.—Local business and youth advocates continue to boost their neighborhood and Boston police have increased their presence in the area after two recent non-fatal shootings—at least one of them “gang related,” according to police.

The two shootings, on Aug. 12 and Aug. 15, left eight people injured.

“I have heard a number of different perspectives” about the shootings, Betsy Cowan, head of Egleston Square Main Streets (ESMS), told the Gazette. “Business owners who have been here 30 years have said, ‘Listen, back in the 1980s, things were so much worse. We have responded before. We can do this.’”

Police and civilian city streetworker presence has been increased in the area since the shootings, according to an open letter from Boston Police Department (BPD) Commissioner Edward Davis available at bpdnews.com.

On Aug. 12 three people were shot and wounded near 3137 Washington Street. One male was taken by ambulance to the Boston Medical Center and two victims—one male and one female—transported themselves to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Longwood Medical Area, according to information provided by BPD spokesperson Elaine Driscoll.

On Aug. 15, another five males were shot down the street at 3151 Washington, according to a BPD report.

The victims in the Aug. 15 shooting “are known to police as being associated with gang activity,” Driscoll told the Gazette in an e-mail.

While she would not name the gang the shooting victims were from, Driscoll implied they were from a neighborhood other than Egleston. “There is no new gang activity in the Egleston area,” she said.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Egleston was the home-neighborhood of the X-Men gang, but that group has since gone dormant, in part in response to a concerted neighborhood revitalization effort by local activists. The 1990s saw two former members of the X-Men take executive director positions at the Egleston Square YMCA.

Driscoll also told the Gazette there is no known connection between the recent shooting and the slaying last spring of 14-year-old Jaewon Martin at a basketball court near the Bromley-Heath housing development in Jackson Square. As the Gazette previously reported, two suspects have been indicted for that murder—an alleged case of mistaken identity in an ongoing feud between the Bromley-Heath-based Heath Street Gang and the Roxbury-based H-Block gang.

“I still don’t see this as a dangerous area, I don’t know what happened,” said Ashawn Clark, a 16-year-old Egleston Square resident and organizer with the local chapter of the non-profit Teen Empowerment.

Cowan told the Gazette that serious concerns about a resurgence of gang activity in Egleston “have not come up in my conversations” with business owners and residents.

That presumably includes conversations at a meeting of the Montebello Road Community Group last week. Davis attended that meeting and issued an open letter to the community group Aug. 20, outlining steps the BPD and the city are taking in response to the shootings.

They include assigning two new civilian streetworkers to the neighborhood, as well as increasing police presence in the area in general, and assigning three officers—one on the day shift and two on the night shift—to walking beats in the business district.

Driscoll did not respond to Gazette questions about whether the Egleston Square “Safe Streets” team—one of 14 teams of “district-based officers who patrol, on foot, high-crime beats,” according to a post on the BPD News web site dated Dec. 4, 2009—is still active.
In his letter, Davis also noted that Boston police have made 28 arrests in the area since Aug. 12, “for numerous charges” including drug possession, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, disturbing the peace, underage drinking, and driving with a suspended or revoked license, among other things.

“That is a significant amount,” Driscoll told the Gazette.

Meanwhile, Cowan and Clark both told the Gazette of continued efforts to support and promote the neighborhood.

As the Gazette previously reported, Cowan has been organizing a series of community meetings to develop and coordinate neighborhood beautification efforts.

Teen Empowerment hosted a “Unity Day” event in the square on Aug. 22. The Unity Day event was organized prior to the shootings, Clark told the Gazette, but, “We [wanted] to show the community we can come together,” he said.

“A lot of factors go into making the neighborhood feel safer, including beautification…It’s an excellent time to bring people together to care for the community,” Cowan said.

Cowan and Clark also said that continuing economic development, which would, among other things, create employment opportunities for local teens, is key to the continuing revitalization of the area.

“There are wonderful people in this neighborhood—merchants and residents making positive contributions,” Cowan said, “One way people can respond is by visiting local businesses.”

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