With record high attendance, Thursday’s October 1st NEWNC Public Safety meeting became a forum for residents to discuss the late night noise issues raised in the recent Boston Globe article, “A Culture Clash in the North End.” It also brought out an all-star cast from various leaders and participants in our neighborhood life.
Residents can expect to see a significant increase in police presence and faster complaint response, according to Boston Police. Leading the meeting from the BPD were Superintendent Dan Linski, Captain Bernard O’Rourke, Sgt. Tom Lema and Officer Teddy Boyle. They intend to show aggressive enforcement of “disturbing the peace” violations in addition to public drinking and other quality of life ordinances. Captain O’Rourke recalled a similar meeting three years ago relating similar late-night activity that was causing excessive noise in the neighborhood. While actions have been taken since then, he indicated the BPD would “go back to the drawing board.”
BPD reviewed the process they take when responding to a call for loud party noise. Generally, the police start with warnings, then citations (fines) and have taken some cases to court. College students are a primary source of loud parties, but the police noted that young professionals also frequently create noise disturbances. Absentee landlords were identified as a problem area with a revolving series of problem renters. Residents would like the police to hold landlords more accountable for their renters.
State Representative Aaron Michlewitz noted that the North End is a “neighborhood first” where residential concerns should take priority. City Councilor Sal LaMattina reiterated the efforts of the “Problem Properties” group that includes Councilor Mike Ross as well as NEWRA’s President, Mark Paul. Representatives from local colleges also vowed to help, including John Nucci, VP External Affairs from Suffolk University, Richard Grealish, Suffolk’s Office of Neighborhood Response and Brad Hinton, Office of Student Conduct at Emerson College.
Suffolk University has a surveillance car that works with the BPD in covering the North End. Suffolk does not have enough dorms so most of its students live in the neighborhoods. In contrast, Emerson College requires its 1st and 2nd year students to live in on-campus dorms. The school redeveloped the Colonial Theater downtown recently and is progressing on another dorm next door in the old Paramount building on Washington Street.
Residents spoke out about many issues, including dissatisfaction with police response at a recurring problem spot in Cleveland Place. The police said they would report back on the rash of recent complaints at that location, including one last weekend that was unresolved. Several folks were upset that police were giving tickets to residents unloading their cars rather than out of state tourists in areas such as Pizzeria Regina. Valet issues were also discussed, causing unnecessary traffic snarls and going the wrong way on 1-way streets. Several specific situations were raised, largely surrounding loud apartment and roof deck parties.
Attendees described how the Hanover/Salem Streets area becomes a “pressure cooker” on Thursday through Saturday nights that gets increasingly rowdy during the early morning hours. The activity spreads out as the night wears on emanating to the outlying streets where residents are trying to sleep. One resident asked if businesses would help fund supplemental police/security. BPD believed this was logistically difficult, but would be supportive of cooperating efforts by the business community.
There was some background discord regarding restaurateur Frank DePasquale’s comment suggesting residents move to the suburbs. However, the licensing and inspection issues were not center stage at the meeting because the police do not control those functions. Watch for more debate on those issues at Licensing Board hearings.
Superintendent Linski summed up the resident feedback with a list of actions, including bringing special units into the North End and a citation effort geared toward cracking down on public drinking and quality of life disturbances. He also said that police would be directed to be more lenient on cars with resident stickers regarding loading/unloading activities.
The meeting ended with several rounds of applause for the coordinated effort that appears to be in motion. The Police reiterated that residents should not hesitate to call 911 to report loud parties or other quality of life violations. The City also has a number to report disturbing parties at 617 343-5400.