In today's (May 15, 2009) Jamaica Plain Gazette, there is an in-depth article titled "Stabbing raises park fears."
In summary, there have been 2 assaults in the South West Corridor Park at 135 Carolina Ave on March 13, 2009 and another on April 21, 2009 by Anson street. Please see the Gazette for details. Both assaults appear to be random and unprovoked.
While I worked for the Boston Police Department from Feb 2006 to September 2008 - the following is based on my experience and points of view and do not necessarily represent the opinions of any law our enforcement agencies.
Clarifying jurisdictional issues:
In the article there are references to questions about jurisdictions between the law enforcement agencies that patrol the area.
The South West Corridor Park is patrolled by the State Police as it is state property. The T Stations and trains are patrolled by the MBTA police as it is on MBTA property. The surrounding streets are patrolled by the Boston Police Department as they are on city property.
If you need help or someone else needs help in the park - or any where else in Boston - Call 911.
Which ever agency can respond the fastest will, once on scene they'll make sure everyone is safe, and based on where the incident happens figure who is responsible for what.
What to say when you call 911:
Let's say you witness a robbery - while this is NOT a common occurrence in the park it helps me make my point - bare with me.
1) State where you are as specifically as you can:
"I am calling from the South West Corridor Park, in Jamaica Plain, in Boston, across from Chestnut Terrace" - This is a very specific location and will help the operator (who if you call from your cell phone will be in Framingham).
2) State what happened as factually as you can and as calmly as you can:
"I just witnessed a robbery. A Latino female in her 40's was approached by two slim white males in their early 20's wearing green hoodies. When they passed her, the taller one, snatched her purse and they both than ran up Boylston Street toward Washington."
The call taker will likely ask you a couple more questions.
After giving the information - you will be asked if you want to leave your name and phone number. This is extremely helpful to law enforcement to follow up with you as you are a witness or to get an update from you if the responding officers have questions about the direction the suspect ran etc. Note - you do not have to give this information if you don't want to. It's optional.
What we can do to make the park safer:
A) Occupy the park and do fun activities with our neighbors. Positive activity displaces negative activity.
B) Make those who use the park aware of recent assaults and have them call 911 when they see suspicious behavior (not looking people).
C) Especially after dark, use your common sense and stay in well lit areas. Do not talk on your mobile phone or listen to your ipod as it says - I'm not really paying attention. When possible walk with others. By walking with other it's greatly decreases the chance of something happening.
Here a plan that Mary Hannon, Pat Roberts and I are working on but need you help to do outreach and engage our neighbors.
1) Door knock on all the perimeter homes of the park to let them know about the assaults and ask them to keep an eye out for and call 911 if they witness suspicious behavior.
2) Let all the people who walk their dogs know about the assaults, give them whistles, and ask them to call 911 if they see suspicious behavior.
3) Organize happenings and events in the a park. Go for more walks, play Frisbee, read a book, have a picnic - you get the idea - in the park.
4) Look every single person you see in the eye and say - Good morning/afternoon/evening. Looking people in the eye and saying hello is wonderful thing to do but also takes away the anonymity away of people who may be up to no good which is powerful deterrent.
5) Invite anyone and every who in interested in Park Safety and enjoyment to join the South West Corridor Park group.
The critical difference between suspicious people and behavior:
People who may look scary to you most likely aren't. This especially applies to youth. Give some respect - get some respect. Baggy pants and carrying on are apart of modern youth culture. Again, give some respect - get some respect. Acknowledge them as human beings and they will acknowledge and respect you. With this said...
So what if you you see a group of teens walking towards you in the park? Should you be scared - mostly likely not.
But use your judgment - if they are just going about their business - go about yours - and if your up to it - say good - what ever time of day it is to them.
Now, If they seem really nervous, or if you can sense something is up - like the hairs are standing up on the back of our neck, or if they follow up - move away from them quick and towards others. Call 911 and blow your whistle if you have one.
What if you see a bunch of teens fighting in the park? Call 911. Everyone deserves to be safe in the park. Period.
The more teens you engage the stronger our collective bonds will be. A teen once told me - what we really want is to be acknowledged and treated with respect - let us know you care.
If you'd like to get involved please join friends of the South West Coordinator Park group Now!