Around twelve people gathered at Curtis Hall in Jamaica Plain on Thursday, March 7, for the monthly police and community relations meeting organized by District E-13 of the Boston Police Department (BPD).
Every month, representatives from BPD, MBTA Transit Police and the Massachusetts State Police are invited to update community members on recent crime statistics and crime-fighting initiatives, and to provide advice on how to avoid becoming a victim.
In attendance at Monday’s meeting were eight local residents, a representative from Arbour Hospital, and Officer William Jones and Captain John Greland from BPD’s District E-13.
Officer Jones provided copies of a chart comparing the year-to-date crime statistics from 2019 with those from 2018.
According to this chart, so far in 2019 there were 143 reported crimes in Jamaica Plain, down from 172 this time last year, a reduction of 17 pervent. Crimes that have seen a decrease so far in 2019 compared to the same time period in 2018 included rape, non-domestic aggravated assault, commercial burglary, motor vehicle larceny, other larceny and auto theft. Crimes that saw an uptick in 2019 included homicide, domestic aggravated assault, residential burglary and other burglary.
Officer Jones also provided a comprehensive list of the individual crimes reported in the area the previous month, including the date, time and location of each incident. According to this list, the month of February saw 39 larcenies (up from 37 in January), 20 burglaries (up from 17 in January), 10 aggravated assaults (down from 12 in January), 2 robberies (down from 4 in January), and no arsons, rapes or auto thefts (all down from one in January). One murder was registered in February when an individual succumbed to a previous shooting injury that occurred in November of 2018.
There was some confusion over the difference between robbery and burglary. Captain Greland explained that robbery is the taking of someone’s property directly from that person and involves intimidation or force, while burglary is unlawfully accessing a residence or building with the intent to commit theft.
Due to the recent uptick in burglaries, Officer Jones passed out a document with suggestions for how people can prevent burglaries of their homes or places of business.
For people living at street level, Officer Jones suggests keeping all valuables out of view from windows where passersby can easily see them. This might be as simple as moving a laptop from a window desk under a pillow.
Securing valuable items in a safe could add another level of difficulty for those who enter a home with bad intentions. Having to spend time and energy to break into a safe might deter a would-be thief, and the noise of doing so might alert neighbors to an intruder.
For those in multi-level homes, Officer Jones emphasized the importance of locking the main access doors to the building, and not just to the individual units. This is because someone breaking into a building is easily seen from the street, whereas once a thief is inside, he can access individual units without being observed.
Other tips include obvious measures such as using sturdy, solid doors as opposed to hollow doors that are easier to break, using safe locks instead of spring-latch locks, and properly securing all doors and windows when not home.
More tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of a crime can be found at bpdnews.com/tips.
Officer Jones and Captain Greland also highlighted the importance of community policing, echoing the “if you see something, say something” slogan of the DHS.
“We do most of our best police working from people willing to reach out and call us,” said Officer Jones.
Officer Jones also highlighted the importance of profiling, but not racial or ethnic profiling.
“We suggest to profile people’s behaviors,” said Officer Jones. “If you see someone standing on your neighbor’s stoop and you don’t know them, call 9-1-1 and say you don’t think that person belongs there.”
Residents who dial 9-1-1 to report a crime should know that they may be asked to identify a suspect or to testify in court. Failing that, the suspect would likely go free.
Some residents at the meeting expressed concern about how they can report crime while also keeping themselves safe from any possible retaliation.
Captain Greland assured that incidents of this nature are rare, and would bring a charge of “intimidating a witness” on top of the original charge.
“If you’re not willing to testify, then don’t complain about the crime in your neighborhood,” said Officer Jones. “You can’t have it both ways.”
Officer Jones has witnessed successful community interventions and suggests that neighbors on the same block create a “phone tree”, a way to alert all residents of the same street at the same time in the event of a crime in process.
He added, “Community policing means the community comes forward and stands up and says, ‘That’s the person that did it.’ ”
“If I’m a criminal and I’m going to a neighborhood where these people aren’t afraid of testifying, I’m going to go somewhere else,” said Captain Greland. “I’m going to go to the place where people don’t say anything and I can get away with it.”
Boston does have an anonymous tip line where residents can report suspicious persons or activities while also maintaining their privacy. The tip line is not affiliated with the BPD and no identifying information is stored. Tips can be submitted via call or text.
However, Captain Greland noted the limitations of the tip line and stated that this isn’t the best choice for reporting a crime in progress. Because tips take awhile to get to the right individuals, the tip line should only be used to report recurrent criminal activity such as drug dealing at a certain locale, and not be used for emergent situations. For crimes in progress, 9-1-1 is always the best choice.
Learn more about how to submit an anonymous tip at bpdnews.com/crime-stoppers-text-a-tip-program.
The BPD puts out real-time crime updates via its Twitter account @bostonpolice. Roughly 530,000 people follow this Twitter account. The police and community relations monthly meeting is on the first Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at Curtis Hall at 20 South Street. The next meeting is April 4. These meetings are open to the public and all interested residents are encouraged to attend.