|August 1, 2013
|Public Safety Meeting: The First Step
|By Rick Winterson
You’ve already read, heard, and watched a week’s worth of accounts in the media, so South Boston Online won’t review the terrifying chain of events on July 23 that resulted in two vicious assaults and the death of Amy Lord. She was laid to rest as this article was drafted. By the time you read this, she will have been remembered with an evening Rosary and a Memorial Mass at Gate of Heaven on Tuesday evening, the 30th.
The Public Safety Meeting on Monday, July 29, was jam-packed and overflowing. It was the largest, longest meeting anyone here could recall. An estimated 500 attendees squeezed into the Tynan School’s Cafeteria/Community Room; hundreds more gathered outside. The meeting began at 7 p.m. and lasted well past 9. A major cross-section of police, elected officials, and candidates for office showed up. Loops of white ribbon, a symbol of Amy Lord’s life, were passed out by Mike Donovan and worn by all.
State Rep. Nick Collins opened the meeting, speaking for all present in expressing his sorrow at the attacks and young Amy Lord’s death. Fr. Joe White said an opening prayer after calling for a moment of silence. Those in attendance murmured the response: “Be with us, Lord.”
Congressman Stephen Lynch promised updates from federal, state, and local officials and enforcement personnel. He thanked everyone at the Meeting for attending, expressing his own sadness at “this terrible tragedy”. “Both new and long-time residents,” he stated, “We’re all in this together.”
City Councilor Bill Linehan expressed his outrage eloquently – “Twenty hours, three attacks, two survivors who identified their attacker.” He then asked pointedly, “Can we do more?”, and answered himself by saying, “Yes, we can!”, including South Boston’s residents and citizens. Linehan demanded to know if the attacker of the two women, who is now in custody, also killed Amy Lord: “Do we have him in hand?”
State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry thanked those in the audience for being there, as well as those who have volunteered to offer free courses in self-defense (there have been many). She asked that law enforcement organizations at all levels join together as a result of this tragic death – “This must be ongoing, continuing.”, she insisted.
At 7:20, Boston Police Department (BPD) Commissioner Edward Davis took the podium. He began by announcing, “We are close.” While it is District Attorney Conley’s responsibility to make formal charges, Davis said – in answer to Linehan’s question - he was satisfied that “we are in the right place; we have the right person”, referring of course to Edwin Alemany. Work continues on what he called “direct evidence”, and somewhat surprisingly (at least to this reporter), Davis emphatically stated that Amy Lord’s death was not drug-related.
Davis had met with the Lord family; he praised their strength and resilience. He reminded the crowd that serious crime in South Boston is down – 11% lower than last year through July 22 - the day before Amy Lord’s murder. He confirmed that the BPD detective, who failed to pursue a case against Edwin Alemany a year ago, has been demoted and will no longer be responsible for investigations. He also talked of progress in combating South Boston’s drug problems, and promised an additional drug unit to us. Davis closed by stating, “We are focused on ongoing protection.
”Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley took the podium, and spoke first of his sadness over Amy Lord’s death. He explained that he coordinates all potential cases with a number of agencies – Boston police, state police, crime labs, and so on. “We have one core principle”, he said, “We have only one chance to get it right in the courtrooms. We have to be very careful.”
Conley said he understood the fear in South Boston. But more needs to be done so he asked for a little more time. For example, Edwin Alemany’s mental evaluation won’t be completed till August 14. Conley compared the two attacks, the incidents for which Alemany is actually being held, to similarities in the death of Amy Lord. He insisted that Alemany no longer poses any threat to anyone in South Boston.
Lt.-Det. Merner of the BPD’s Drug Unit briefed the crowd on progress with drugs in South Boston. The Unit started with prescription abuse, and then went “upstream” to heroin and cocaine. It has been nothing short of a battle: 314 arrests, 456 total police interventions, five recent deaths from heroin overdoses, and you have heard of the firefight on Old Colony Avenue between the BPD and an armed drug dealer in July. Much progress has been made, however, and the effort continues.
Brief presentations by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the Massachusetts State Police, and the Boston Housing Authority Police ended the formal part Public Safety Meeting at 8:50. More than 20 questioners and commentators then came forward from the audience to address the panel.
Space does not permit us to transcribe all of the questions and comments, so South Boston Online will summarize the most substantial, which we’ve condensed into bullet points:
- South Boston must have more foot/bicycle patrol officers, especially during critical hours – around closing times when women are walking home; early morning when many young people are out and about, going to work early or to their gyms, and so on. Cost is NO object; use overtime beginning now; take the officers from other BPD programs, if necessary. “Let the sight of the uniform do the work”, as any experienced police officer will tell you.
- Why was Edwin Alemany not still in prison? He’s dangerous. The Boston Globe gave an easily readable summary of his record, which includes some light, concurrent sentences. Read that summary (Globe, July 30, Page A9) and decide for yourself. Our opinion: Our court system let us down.
- Why are there felons in the projects (Edwin Alemany gave one of the project flats as his address)? Further and frequent checking is essential and faster evictions are needed. Why are the BHA Police are almost laughably too “thin on the ground”? Focus all future drug enforcement efforts on the projects; deals in them go on around the clock.
- How can we receive immediate neighborhood-wide alerts when a serious crime is committed in those neighborhoods? How about alarms on cell phones? And in ATM lobbies?
- Stop issuing or even reduce the number of liquor/wine/beer licenses. Southie is overrun with them.
- People who report crimes need 100% feedback – they claim they’re not getting it. Commissioner Davis gave a number to contact him (617-343-4500) if you’re not satisfied. Deputy Superintendent Billy Evans explained some of steps he takes in South Boston (where he lives) and spoke of getting back to one woman after a specific incident.
- When Melissa Hardy’s name came up, Councilor Linehan announced that the supposed “sober house” where her body was found has been closed. State Sen. Dorcena Forry said she’s working on registration and control of sober houses. The preliminary findings on the woman washed up on M Street Beach does not indicate foul play. Despite these answers (and they were good answers), many people asked, “Where can we ever feel safe again?”
- There were many general comments about getting to know the people in your neighborhood, leading to an informal but effective protective network on every block and street. We must take charge of our own neighborhoods to protect ourselves (ONLINE’S COMMENT: Yes, much of this is up to us – the voting, taxpaying residents of South Boston).
The Meeting closed at 9:30 with brief comments by John McGahan, President of the Gavin Foundation. He struck a positive note by affirming that help is available for addiction and other drug-related problems, like the cluster of five recent heroin overdoses. Services can be obtained by calling the Health Center at (617)269-7500 or the Gavin Foundation at (617)268-5000.
Rep. Nick Collins promised to support further action – “We’ll find the resources.”, he claimed. South Boston Online will point out that everyone on the Tynan stage works for you, not the other way around. Fr. Joe White ended the evening with a prayer for understanding, patience, and strength.
A final shout-out to all those who took the time to attend Monday’s Public Safety Meeting: You were upset and fearful, of course, but you listened politely and applauded the speakers when they announced the steps they have taken to heal our problems. You understand the difficulties our officials face; the points you made after the formal presentations were mostly well-put. You typified South Boston at its best. And Amy Lord was one of us.
From South Boston Online, thank you!