A local tenant organization push to have more City resources in the Jackson Square area to help quell violence is starting to pay dividends.
The Jackson Square area has had a series of shootings over the past several months, including the Oct. 31 shooting death of 16-year-old Gerrod Brown that was followed the next day by an afternoon shooting at the corner of Lamartine and Centre streets. No injuries were reported at the second shooting.
“The shootings make people more afraid and they don’t want to go outside. It’s hard to explain to them it’s not going to happen again because we don’t know if it won’t happen again,” said Wendy Polanco, president of the Mildred C. Hailey Tenant Organization.
She said the shootings especially affects the community and parents when the victims are youths.
“Kids are supposed to bury their parents. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their kids,” said Polanco.
She said that the tenant organization sent a request for more City resources after several shootings at the start of last summer.
In a July 31 letter to Mayor Martin Walsh, the tenant organization requested a new youth police officer for the area (the previous officer had left because of a promotion), the installation of promised security cameras at the housing development, increased police patrols, and better communication from the City when violence happens in the area.
And then after the death of Brown on Oct. 31, the tenant organization and residents gathered on Nov. 8 for a vigil and rally to draw attention to the violence in the area. The next day, Mayor Walsh, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, Boston Housing Authority (BHA) head Bill McGonagle, and other City officials met with the tenant organization and residents to discuss the violence and promised resources for the community.
According to the City, the Boston Police Department recently made Officer Jorge Diaz the new Youth Services Officer and he has since met with the tenant organization. Diaz will be working exclusively with youths in the area to deter kids from violence, according to the City. BPD and BHA police have increased patrols in the development, as well as Boston Centers for Youth and Families street workers having an active presence there. According to the City, 120 security cameras have been installed and BHA and BPD have agreed to hold monthly meetings with the tenant organization to listen to their concerns, answer questions, and collaborate on public safety initiatives and support services to curb violence in the neighborhood.
Polanco said that it’s “very good” that the area again has a youth officer, as it is “somebody who can work with the kids.” She said people “love the idea” of more cameras being installed at the development, as they believe it will lead to arrests. But, she said, they realize it’s not going to produce instant results.
Polanco also said that with the increased police patrols, “hopefully, people see the police more engaged and the shootings will stop.”
She said that they are a “strong community” filled with working-class people and that “they don’t want any more violence. We don’t want our kids—or anyone—to get hurt.”
And, Polanco said, she will continue to make sure the community has the resources it needs.
“I’m going to keep pushing whoever I have to push,” she said.