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  Friday, March 27, 2015
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November 29, 2012

UPDATE:  South Boston’s Drug Scene

  No one has to be told that South Boston has been affected by the sale, use, and abuse of illegal and highly addictive drugs.  Drug abuse allegedly resulted in a series of homicides here in 2011-2012.  In the past, homicides have been very rare occurrences in South Boston. 

  After an especially vicious homicide last spring, a massive police presence in South Boston resulted in a large number of drug-related arrests.  Those detained were from all over Boston and Vicinity.  More recently, a police search warrant drive called “Operation Halloween” was continued into November.  This resulted in 15 arrests and another voluntary surrender, which centered upon possession, distribution, and outstanding warrants in the D Street Housing Development.

  The West Broadway Task Force, which includes the D Street Development, called for an update on South Boston’s drug scene and the progress made by the Boston Police Department (the BPD).  This took place on Tuesday, November 27, at the Condon Community Center.  It was led by Lt. Det. Robert Merner, Commander of the BPD’s Drug Unit; he was assisted by a BPD colleague, Lt. Det. Gerard Bailey, Commander of the BPD’s Gang Unit.  Sen. Hart and Rep. Collins were present – they both said “It’s working”, and commended the police for their successes so far.

  First, Lt. Det. Merner gave some figures describing the first two months of their anti-drug effort.  In the May-June time frame, 117 individuals were arrested, 144 were charged, and 129 of these were drug-related.  Of these, 40 came from South Boston, 50 from other areas of South Boston, and the rest were from outside of Boston

  This made a major dent in the local drug scene.  As an aside, Lt. Merner mentioned that the uniformed officers were so thorough that they arrested one undercover drug cop in their efforts.  The dealers soon got the message:  It’s not OK to sell drugs in South Boston.

  Since last spring’s efforts, which focused on City Point, Andrew Square, and Preble/Old Colony Circle, 138 more have been apprehended, for a total of 282 in about 200 days – an impressive performance by the BPD.  This time, almost half (64) of those picked up were from South Boston.

  Lt. Merner addressed quality-of-life issues that relate to the drug scene.  Prostitution has crept up Dorchester Avenue into South Boston, because many of the women involved are also addicts – they are going “where the action is” in response to enforcement efforts in Dorchester.  He also mentioned that prescription drugs are a large part of the drug scene nowadays.

  Drugs are often associated with gang activities.  Lt. Det. Bailey talked about his gang-related work.  He has 20 men assigned to days, who mostly pursue warrants.  His force includes 40 officers on night duty, who directly monitor individual gang behavior.  His unit and the drug unit are working closely together in South Boston.

  The update meeting was thrown open for questions.  In response to an inquiry about doctors and pharmacies, Lt. Merner said that the police are tracking them, and that a bill is being proposed to electronically track “doctor shopping” and “problem pharmacies”. 

  After a question about methadone clinics arose, Sen. Hart stated that the two existing clinics in the Newmarket area, which are (in his words) “big business”, are being closely monitored.  A third clinic, which is under construction, will simply not be licensed.  There are already 1,100 addicts undergoing methadone treatment at the existing two clinics, many of whom end up hanging out back in Andrew Square.

  Another question was asked about the state drug lab scandal.  Lts. Merner and Bailey both explained how they’ve gone to the prisons and counseled those who may be released.  They assured the people at the Condon meeting that those released will be tracked, and given every opportunity to get back on the “straight and narrow”.  Otherwise, if they take up their old way of life, they’ll go back in.

  The ballot approval on medical marijuana also came up.  Lt. Merner stated that he is taking part in the plan for marijuana dispensaries, which won’t be opened before next May.  (NOTE:  South Boston Online will be publishing a future editorial on the medical marijuana issue, which was passed by nearly two-thirds of those who voted.)

  The drug update was a remarkable example of how effective police work can be.  It is important that all of us keep informed about the drug problem.  According to Lts. Merner and Bailey, most of their leads come from people who live right in the affected neighborhoods.  Anonymous tip lines are available to those who feel threatened by normal channels.  Plan to attend the next drug update meeting (date TBA – look for it in South Boston Online).

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