ECPD: Stuart and Tremont Sts. a hub for crime

by Beacon Staff • April 2, 2008

A man in a heavy coat stands in front of the convenience store, holding the door for customers and asking if anyone can spare some change.

At 2:20 a.m., a police car flashes its lights, and those standing nearby walk casually in separate directions.,It's dark at the corner, except for the glowing white light of the 7-Eleven.

A man in a heavy coat stands in front of the convenience store, holding the door for customers and asking if anyone can spare some change.

At 2:20 a.m., a police car flashes its lights, and those standing nearby walk casually in separate directions.

This is the intersection of Stuart and Tremont streets, a nook of Boston situated on the same block as Emerson's Little Building and Cutler Majestic Theatre.

In the first four months of 2008, the number of reported robberies in the vicinity of the area has already matched the total for all of 2007, according to the Boston Police Department.

"It is one of our identified hot spots," said Boston Police Capt. Bernard O'Rourke. "When we assign our police officers, we assign a lot more to that area."

O'Rourke said crime in the area is partially a result of the interaction's nearness to St. Francis House, a homeless shelter on Boylston Street.

He also said that late night customers constantly going in and out of convenience stores provide an excellent place for criminals to blend in.

Chief George Noonan, director of public safety at Emerson, said crime in the Theatre District is strongly related to the history of the area.

Before Emerson's campus left the Back Bay, the Theatre District was the center of a thriving adult entertainment industry complete with bars, strip clubs, prostitution, gambling and X-rated movie theatres.

While the adult entertainment has been reduced to just two strip clubs and a few pornography stores, people still come to the same intersection for drugs.

"This is where it's always been," Noonan said. "The drug dealers don't want to move because this is where the people are coming."

Emerson students interviewed said they have had their share of shady encounters on the block.

Senior Shae Minnillo said he witnessed an older businessman smoking crack cocaine in the bathroom of a bar across the street from the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

The audio major said he usually gets asked for money and cigarettes whenever he walks toward the 7-Eleven.

"It's like any city," Minnillo said. "You just avoid eye contact."

He recalled an October 2005 incident in which two people were killed and a third person injured during a shooting at the intersection of Warrenton and Stuart streets, just behind the City Place building.

Tom McCusker, a senior writing, literature and publishing major, said one of his first impressions of the area involved someone screaming at him while McCusker was filming for Emerson Independent Video. The camera-shy man seemed under the influence of alcohol or drugs, McCusker said.

"We told him that we weren't taping him," McCusker said. "He eventually walked away but he walked away screaming at us."

McCusker and Minnillo both said they have seen as much crime and drug dealing happening next to Downtown Convenience, another area convenience store, on Boylston Street as near the corner of Stuart and Tremont.

McCusker remembered once seeing police tape and blood on the sidewalk outside Downtown Convenience.

"I think I've gotten used to it," McCusker said as an undercover police vehicle flashed its lights and turned on its siren next to Downtown Convenience.

O'Rourke said the nearby 7-Eleven is taking steps to control the crime and shoplifters in and around its store by installing security cameras. He said the store also switched from being a 24-hour establishment to closing at 3 a.m. O'Rourke said he feels people will no longer have an excuse to remain on the corner later than that.

Noonan said he attends Midtown and Park Plaza neighborhood meetings, and frequently hears concerns about crime from Emerson administrators, local landlords, bar owners and area tenant groups.

"Never is there a meeting where the intersection of Tremont and Stuart streets is not mentioned," Noonan said.