Report: More drug use on and nearby campus

by Beacon Staff • October 10, 2007

The increased drug use is reflected in triple the number of arrests made on public property near Emerson's campus and an increase in on-campus drug violations, as reported by the college's annual public safety report, which aggregates crime statistics from 2004 through 2006 in Emerson's geographic area.,From dormitory dealers to curbside crackheads, violations of drug and alcohol laws have increased on and off campus, according to this year's annual public safety report.

The increased drug use is reflected in triple the number of arrests made on public property near Emerson's campus and an increase in on-campus drug violations, as reported by the college's annual public safety report, which aggregates crime statistics from 2004 through 2006 in Emerson's geographic area. It includes on-campus incidents to which the Emerson College Police Department responded and incidents on public property to which BPD responded.

Disciplinary referrals for both alcohol and drug violations made by ECPD to the Office of Housing and Residence Life and the dean of students increased dramatically.

Alcohol violations rose steadily between 2004 and 2006, peaking at 235 reported cases referred last year. On-campus drug violations that resulted in referrals for disciplinary action rose to 53 instances, up from 40 the previous year. In most of the other categories, on-campus crime declined or remained low.

As defined by the report, the campus extends onto the Common between the Boylston Street T stations, east onto Essex Street, and as far south as the Doubletree and Courtyard Marriott hotels serving as dormitories this year. Students weren't housed in those hotels during the 2006-2007 academic year.

The report also chronicled crime to which the BPD responded on public property close to Emerson's campus, including the Common, Boston's Public Gardens and the Boylston Street T stations. Drug law violations there more than tripled since 2005, totaling 171 offenses, up from 50 the previous year.

Noonan said this statistical leap was made possible by one BPD enforcement program.

The BPD's new permanent task force for patrolling the Common, Operation Common Cure, began in August after increased complaints from residents, said Captain Bernard O'Rourke, commander of the A1 district, which includes Emerson's campus.

"This one [program] here, we set up a safe street team, which is permanent, unlike before, where we targeted it with temporary directed patrols and overtime," O'Rourke said.

He said the 350 drug-related arrests made so far in 2007 on the Common are related mostly to crack cocaine and heroin use or possession.

The two drugs are separated geographically in the enforcement area; most crack cocaine activity was found near the intersection of Boylston and Tremont streets near Emerson's campus, while heroin dealers and users were found mostly in the Winter Street area, near the Park Street T station. Noonan said although Emerson Police have jurisdiction over the area between the Boylston Street T entrances, they would be no match for an armed drug dealer.

"It's not responsible to send unarmed officers to deal with drug dealers," he said.

He said arming the ECPD has been considered, but no action will be taken in the near future to add firearms to ECPD's arsenal.

Aggravated assault nearly tripled on public property, from 15 cases to 55, and gun possession crimes doubled to eight cases over the same period.

Noonan attributed the increased crime rate to the new hire of two dispatchers and a handful of new officers, along with the increased BPD enforcement plan.

But some students, who still often avoid the Common at night, said the situation on America's oldest public park is getting worse.

"It's definitely gotten worse between my freshman and junior year," said senior marketing major Derek Esposito, who lived at 100 Boylston St. his freshmen year and walked through the Common almost daily.

O'Rourke said that although the department now employs a squad of full time officers to target the Common, offenders have moved on to other parts of the city.

"We dealt with this in Chinatown, which is the good news," O'Rourke said. "The bad news is that [the offenders] moved to the Common."

After enforcement was ramped up there, O'Rourke said, some of the same delinquents moved toward Copley Square.

Danny Madden, a junior film major who lives in the Little Building, said police were more visible to him than they used to be.

"They're on bikes and horses out here," he said. "This is the center of Boston. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. Sometimes there is sketchy stuff happening in the Common, but I'm so close to home it doesn't really phase me."

Other downtown residents, however, said they've seen the crime first-hand.

One alleged mugging victim, Jim Jonah, 46, lives on Court Street near City Hall. He said he walks through the Common almost every day and has been robbed twice in the last two months. The most recent incident he said occurred at around 11 a.m. on Oct. 5.

"It happened in broad daylight," Jonah said in an interview on the Common. "I was coming out of the Boylston T stop, and a guy confronted me and said he had a weapon, and wanted my money. So I gave it to him."

He said he passed through the Common again on his way home a few hours later and spotted the same man who took his $180 sitting on the retaining wall near the inbound Boylston Street T stop, and called police.

"On the Common, it's getting worse," he said. "All the people who sleep in there at night, some of them are harmless, but some aren't. It's most likely the crack-the desperation of that causes the extra threat."