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Annapolis Neighborhood October Meeting Breaks Down in Shouting and Anger



Annapolis Neighborhood Meeting 10/25/12


Jean Every introduced herself as a lifelong resident of Sumner St #19.  She and two other members of the community are planning to restart the Annapolis Neighborhood Association after a one year hiatus.  They will not be leafleting the neighborhood to remind residents because it takes too much time. They will be using email the same way Columbia Savin Hill does.  “If anybody wants to volunteer to distribute a flyer, you have our blessings. Meetings will continue to be on the last Thursday of the month. Just mark your calendar and show up.  Hopefully the steering group will be able to work well together and they are will be enough community interest to keep the group going.” 

Annapolis Neighborhood Meeting Oct 25, 2012
Officer Keaney - Police Report

Officer Keaney talked about a relatively new City Hall initiative called “Problem Properties.”  With eight or more calls for service, the properties are evaluated and depending on what is found, may be labeled a problem property.  Problematic calls include drug dealing, drug overdoses, robbery and cars broken into. As an example, from January 1 through August 2012, 27-37 Bakersfield Arms had over 25 calls for service and was deemed to be a “problem property” because of the nature of the calls.   

A resident asked what she should do if she sees a drug transaction taking place.  “If we call 911, does that generate a report that could go against the property?  Officer Keaney said: “Not always.”  The police do not generate a report based solely on a phone call.  They have to also be able to find proof.  If the police respond to a call and find drugs, an overdose or they arrest someone, that’s different.

Officer Keaney reported that October had been a quieter than normal month for Bakersfield Arms. Only three calls came in and they were for domestic violence. “One of the reasons,” said a resident, “is that the operation has shifted.  They are now using kids to do the transactions. A car drives up with kids.  They get out while the car circles the block.  They make the transaction and get back in the car. I saw that very scenario happen 15 minutes before I walked into this room.”

Officer Keaney then gave out two phones numbers.  617-343-4819 is the C11 drug control unit, a secure number - only two detectives are allowed to listen to the calls.  Leave the information anonymously or leave your name and a callback number.  617-343-4524 is a direct dial to Officer Keaney.

Problem Property 37 Bakersfield St Problem Property 37 Bakersfield St

Problem Property 37 Bakersfield St Problem Property 37 Bakersfield St


Chris English - Neighborhood Services

Annapolis Neighborhood Meeting Oct 25, 2012Chris English provided a general idea of what's going on with Bakersfield Arms (six addresses:  27, 39, 31, 33, 35, 37) though he was quick to point out that he is not part of the task force. The problem properties task force looks at the number of police, fire and inspectional services calls and reviews each property individually. They take whatever steps are appropriate such as meeting with the property owner, putting signs out and stationing police cruisers.  He believes there were as many as 40 calls associated with that property in one year, including for drug overdoses and drug arrests.     

An Annapolis Street resident said that these buildings have been a problem for years. She has called the housing department and filed several complaints and she has repeatedly called the police for loud noises and people smoking weed. “I just wish that property would go away. We are all raising kids here.” Residents said that “half the people that are walking the streets are high on crack or something.”

One resident wanted to know if there was a mechanism for seizing persistent problem properties.  The answer is no.  The city can levy fines against the property which become tax liens.  To that extent, it could lead to a tax title taking. Chris did not know if this property yet had any fines levied against it. 

Residents requested a different type of police presence.  Instead of a cruiser planted and not moving, having police on bikes traveling through the community would be better.


Sober House - Why the Secret?

“How come we never knew anything about this program? We are raising our kids here and with these programs coming in, why can't we be made aware of these programs?”  This resident was referring to the recovery program, Steps to Solutions, located within Bakersfield Arms.  When one attendee tried to differentiate the type of resident living within the Bakersfield Arms complex, Chris said it doesn’t matter.  Others said it does.  If there is a mixture of normal residential units plus units devoted to drug treatment, then that changes the culture of the complex.  Apparently, due to the confidentiality of a treatment program, the neighborhood was never informed.

“Can we buy you out?”  A resident asked the property owner directly.  “Yes, $130,000 per unit.”  (1.3k x 23 units = $3M).  

A longtime resident said he has “lived here for a long time. I know when this problem really got out of hand - somewhere around the summer of 2010. Some major shift happened in 2010. All of a sudden drug addicts are walking down the middle of the streets.”


Wendy Rist, owner of Bakersfield Arms, introduced herself and read a prepared letter.

My name is Wendy Rist. Bakersfield Street is a 23 unit building. I have attended many of these meetings after I purchased the property. I remember well how ragged the property looked when I bought it. It was open from Bakersfield Street all the way to Sumner Street. People were cutting back and forth; kids were running back and forth at will.

In the middle of the property, there were two huge dumpsters. The whole thing looked really run down. What I heard from my neighbors was: "thanks for coming and improving the neighborhood." I constructed condominiums on Summer Street, illuminating an unsightly vacant lot. I also constructed a wrought iron fence to control the traffic with kids cutting through the property. I gated the property, landscaped it and tried to improve it.

I want to be a good neighbor and I want to do what I can to make a difference to the community. For that reason I agreed to rent to Peter McCarthy, steps to solutions. His first lease was signed January 2010. I saw this as an improvement to the community. I learned that these men and women who live there in the recovery homes are drug tested three times a week and there is a zero tolerance policy.  If they fail a drug test, they are immediately discharged. The program is called "recovery homes" and not "party homes." I thought I was doing a good thing for the community, reducing the homeless population I see all over. But obviously I failed to convey to the neighborhood what are to me obvious good intentions.

It was almost a year ago I spoke to Gloria and told her I would not be able to attend the neighborhood meeting because I had to go to LA to see my daughter. What I regret is that I did not call her to schedule another meeting. When I received the letter from the Mayor's Task Force in May, that Bakersfield Street was labor labeled a problem property, I immediately sent out a notice and met with my tenants to see what could be done to rectify the situation. I spoke to the tenants about excessive calls to the police department. This is one issue the city had a problem with. I also attended meetings with the captain, the liaison officer Tim Golden and Chris English to come up with a plan of action.

I was asked to install a surveillance camera system so we can monitor the property. This I did. I read the police reports and three of the tenants who had the most issues with the police are now moving two at the end of October and one at the end of November. The heart of the neighbors concerns, I understand, are the recovery homes. I sent an e-mail to Chris English and copied Tim Golden that three of the homes would be closed by the end of October. Two are empty and Peter is waiting to place the last two participants in the third.

I am humbled by this experience. I want to move on. I want the sign removed, and the police detail removed. I ask you to let me know what you want me to do in order to get this ordeal behind me.


Peter MacCarthy, Owner, Steps to Solutions

“The community is important to us. That's why we have a lot of guys do a lot of work in the neighborhood for nothing. We do service work in the neighborhood. Since 2010 we have improved the inside and the outside - the landscaping.”

Peter commented about “Steps to Solutions” program. They are licensed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and they have liability insurance. They do urine screens three times a week and provide counseling services for clients.  “We are not a renegade program. We do not drink and we do not do drugs. We don't have anyone on heroine and we never had a death in the five years we've been in business.”

He added: “The whole purpose, which is God's will, not my will, is to take a broken individual and align them with God's will and get them on the right track. All these guys [attending the meeting from the sober house] here have over a year clean of sobriety.”

Clearly demonstrating his annoyance with this meeting, he stated:  “You are worried about a little thing of a person here and there, walking down your street. You might want to focus more on the people who are being shot in your neighborhood.”

(Lots of shouting)

Peter said: “We have closed down the units that you have asked us” without explaining why they were asked to close them down. 

He then tried to justify the importance of his program, saying that many of the guys were referred to his program by the courts.  His program is there to help these guys get back into society.  “We are trying to help people here. We have success stories here. A lot of guys are going to college. A lot of these people have their kids back in their lives now. They're going to school because they have put down their drinking and drugs.”

A resident countered saying:  "The problem is not your success stories. The problem is your failures.”  Almost immediately after Steps to Solutions moved in (within five months), the neighborhood saw that something had changed radically - drug addicts walking down the middle of the street and they're going in and out of the buildings.”

(Lots of shouting)

One of the residents tried to bridge the conversation by saying: “I hear and feel your passion. You have worked damned hard to change that behavior.  But we have been in this neighborhood a long time. Our time and our money has been invested in these homes. We've made them a home. How that property looked and felt before Steps came in was harmony for us and now something is not right.”  One person described seeing women who clearly look like prostitutes walking down the street at 8 o’clock in the morning. 

Another resident who has lived in the neighborhood since he was 22 (1985) talked about a time when he and others patrolled the streets as vigilantes.  “If we step up, you are going to lose that program. We will force you out. So it is up to you to take a stand.”


Steps to Solutions Case Manager Speaks

The Steps to Solutions case manager spoke.  “Right now we have an epidemic of young people using opiates - oxycodone on to perc 30’s to heroine.. So they get picked up and are sent to detox, then to a holding halfway house, then a sober house.”

He explained how a lack of funding is creating serious problems.  It used to be that if you were being held, waiting for entry into a halfway house, you would be held until one was available.  Not anymore.  There are long waiting lists and if a halfway house is not available, then they let you go.  So the overflow has been to coming to the sober houses which isn’t right.


Wendy's Regular Tenants - a Problem

At the same time, an evaluation of the police reports for all tenants at Bakersfield Arms showed that most of the calls related to three of Wendy’s regular tenants.  So there may be problems in both areas.  Wendy stated that two of the more serious incidents belong to one tenant who is leaving. Two other problematic tenants are leaving by the end of November. 

A resident asked Wendy:  "What is your screening process for assessing a tenant application?"  And Wendy replied:  “Well, I do the very best I can.”  After some additional questioning, the group understood that Wendy, who lives in Quincy, is doing all the tenant screening herself.  And she does all the building monitoring herself.  Residents suggested she hire a professional screening agency. 


Resident Speaks up whose Brother was Murdered

Resident: “I want to apologize if I said anything to offend you gentlemen over there.  I think what you guys are doing is great. I was a little touched because when you mention… I have been here since I was seven years old. I have lived in the same house forever. My brother was murdered two years ago. I still do not know who killed my brother.”

“So when I walk on the streets, I want to see a safe environment for my child to grow up in. I don't want to see cops monitoring the street. It should not have to be like this. It was never like this before. You have to understand my concern as a resident. I applaud you guys. I really really do. I wish you much success in all that you are doing. But also, I've lived here. You are running some type of sober house. It kind of contradicts that concept when I'm hearing drug activity going on. I can hear with my years. And I smell people smoking weed.”


Sober House Residents Out of Touch

One of the sober house residents talked about how important the program was for him.  A resident asked:  “Aren’t you being affected by living so close to problematic tenants?”  They also asked what kinds of problems the sober house clients have identified.  Though it was difficult to get the sober house residents to even answer this question, what was clear is that these sober house resident don’t notice what’s taking place around them because they are too busy getting ready to go to a meeting or visit with family. 

A resident asked Peter:  “How long is your program locked in with the lease?” Peter said they were all different.  And there does not appear to be any reason for termination of the Steps to Solutions lease based on program problems which did not set well with the residents. 

Everyone agreed that Wendy had made changes by terminating three tenants and they expected the condition of the neighborhood to improve significantly between now and the time of the next meeting, Nov 29, 2012.

Annapolis Neighborhood Meeting Oct 25, 2012 Annapolis Neighborhood Meeting Oct 25, 2012

Annapolis Neighborhood Meeting Oct 25, 2012 Annapolis Neighborhood Meeting Oct 25, 2012

Comments

Sat, Nov 17 2012

I don't agree with your headline that the Annapolis Neighborhood Meeting broke down.  While there was anger and tension, I felt that there was also respect and courage.  Given the volatility of the situation, I thought people behaved like adults and that it, all in all, went fairly well. Sure there were times of people interrupting and talking over each other but I wouldn't have said that characterized the whole of the meeting.  As a whole, I thought it was a good start.  The landlord showed up and had the courage to address people's frustrations.  The safe house did the same.  People strongly expressed themselves but I also thought there was restraint.

Breaking down has probably different meanings to different people.  Technically, I can see your point but I don't think it accurately conveyed the whole of the meeting.

Bill Bonnice




Posted: November 14, 2012     Nancy J Conrad


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