The residences shown below, all located in police districts C-11, B-2 or B-3, are among the most well known addresses in the city for Boston Police. In a single year these homes have been the subject of anywhere from seven to 25 emergency calls each, for incidents ranging from alleged drug activity, to assault and battery and breaking and entering, according to police reports from the last 12-18 months obtained by the Reporter and Watchdog New England.
There are several factors that the city of Boston’s newly established Problem Properties Task Force weighs to determine if a residence is a “problem property,” such as whether there is an absentee landlord, if the structure is “run down” and inspectional services violations. The Reporter team looked at residences with at least eight incidents, because that is the treshhold that city officials have set in a proposed new policy that would fine landlords to pay for police cruisers to be stationed outside their building.
Click on a photo in the slideshow above for detailed information about each property.
This is the final segment of a two-part investigation into Dorchester and Mattapan’s biggest “problem properties” and the City of Boston’s proposed response.
Council panel to review plans on troubled properties
Correction: An earlier version of this article, “Legislative panel to get city’s plan on troubled properties,” incorrectly said that a State House committee will hear testimony from top members of the Menino Administration on its plans for confronting absentee landlords next week. In fact, the Tuesday hearing will be before the City Council’s Committee on Government Operations chaired by Councillor Feeney. The hearing will include proposals from both the Menino Administration and from Councillors Feeney and Ross, and will be on July 6 at 1 p.m. The Reporter regrets its error.
The Menino Administration is seeking legislative approval to advance its crackdown on landlords whose properties have drawn a constant stream of police calls. Next week, a State House committee will hear testimony from top members of the Menino Administration who want to expand the legal definition of a “public nuisance” to cover any property where the Boston Police have had to respond to a 911 call regarding serious crime on four occasions during the prior year.
Under the city’s proposal, the landlord would be subject to a $300 fine for every occasion that a property is designated a public nuisance. Additionally, if the address is the site of eight or more serious police calls in a given year, the property owner would be assessed the cost of the police responses. A separate provision in the proposal would allow for such fines levied on landlords whose properties are cited for four or more sustained violations by the city’s Inspectional Services Department in one year’s time.
The hearing before the Joint Committee for Government Operations is scheduled for July 6, according to Dot Joyce, Menino’s spokeswoman.
In presenting the proposal last month to the Boston City Council, which also must approve the measure, Menino described its aim this way: “The purpose of this amendment is to empower the city to police properties that exhibit an elevated and notorious atmosphere or criminal and other disturbing activity rising to such a level as to endanger the common good and general welfare of a specific neighborhood or the city in general.”
Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, said the board’s members who are landlords plan to testify at the hearings to try to make the “problem properties legislation” as fair as possible, “something that makes sense for the owner/landlord community.”
Vasil wants to “make sure the number of calls that trip the trigger [for fines] make sense for the actual size of the property owned,” giving as an example landlords who own 50- or 100-unit buildings where 911 calls may be a frequent occurrence. “Before you know it you may have eight police calls on the property, but it may be 50 or 100 units, and in reality that’s really not a lot compared to the actual size,” he said.
“We understand the city saying they definitely want to make landlords responsible, and I think a lot of the properties that they’re looking at are smaller properties, three families, four families, six families maybe, and some of the units our members own are larger buildings. So we want to make sure when you own a larger building… that if you have a high number of police calls over time that it’s counted properly,” Vasil said.
Menino’s initiative to crack down on properties that trigger multiple police calls began after a May 7 shooting on the platform of the Savin Hill MBTA station that resulted in the death of 19-year-old Derek Matulina, who was born and raised in the neighborhood. Initially the media reported that the alleged assailant – or witnesses to the crime – had fled into a nearby three-decker at 47-49 Savin Hill Ave.
While police now doubt that the address served as a hiding place for the alleged killer, it was not surprising that those familiar with the neighborhood would find such reports credible. The property has long been in physical decline, and community and City Hall tolerance to that decline had allowed the six-family house to become a hangout for neighborhood toughs, if not a breeding ground for crime.
Following an emotional community meeting that was attended by Derek Matulina’s father and sister, the administration assembled a task force of city department heads to find a way of striking at those properties — and their owners — that generate a steady stream of police calls.
An initial review of police data showed that more than a dozen properties in the Dorchester and Mattapan neighborhoods were responsible for 20 calls or more between May 2010 and May 2011. In interviews with the Dorchester Reporter, some landlords whose properties generated numerous police calls complained about the laws concerning landlord-tenant issues and said that the city should seek to make it easier for them to evict tenants who are responsible for the calls.
Asked about recommending changes to make it easier to evict problem tenants, Menino spokeswoman Joyce said: “This legislation is aimed at absentee landlords who look the other way when presented with problems at their property with either tenants’ violent/illegal behavior or cleanliness issues.”
Read part one of this story.
This story was produced through the Watchdog New England-Dorchester Reporter partnership. View the original story on Dorchester Reporter’s website.