Public safety meeting covers increased security in Columbia-Savin Hill

Dorchester residents gathered Wednesday night for a public safety meeting addressing a churn of low level crime and specifically prompted by an attack on night of Sept. 27, in which a woman on Harbor View Street was robbed and sexually assaulted at knifepoint. The victim was reportedly observing the supermoon eclipse when she was accosted.

“This kind of thing has never happened here,” said city councillor Frank Baker, who convened the meeting at the Little House along with Boston Police. “I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Police presence is being increased in the area, and a camera was installed at Robert E. Ryan playground on Wednesday, Baker said. In response to a woman’s request at the meeting, superintendent Bernard O’Rourke with the BPD's Bureau of Field Services said a police cruiser could be regularly stationed near the rear of the JFK/UMass station from for a few hours in the evening.

The police contingent at the meeting also included Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross and night lieutenant Richard Driscoll with C-11 and George Julianel with the Sexual Assault Unit.

While some suggested that young women walking at night should take care not to be targets, Gross pointed out that “everyone should be able to walk wherever they want at night,” but asked that individuals be aware that “there are bad guys out there.”

Criminals are “profiling you,” Gross said. Looking for distracted or otherwise inattentive people moving alone in unmonitored areas, “they know who the victims are,” he said.

Self-defense courses will be available in the coming weeks, on Monday Oct. 19, Tuesday Oct. 20, Monday Oct. 26, and Tuesday Oct. 27. All courses will be hosted by police officers at 5:30 p.m. at the Little House at 275 E. Cottage St., Dorchester.

The assault suspect, described as a black male in his 20s of medium build with short black curly hair and a small amount of facial hair, has not been apprehended. Anyone with any knowledge of the incident, which occurred at about 11 p.m., is asked to call police detectives directly at 617- 343-4400. A security camera near the scene showed the suspect, police said, who appeared to be wearing his hair in “two distinct braids” and may have left in a black SUV.

That a car was involved, police said at the meeting, may indicate that the man was from outside the neighborhood. Though there are cameras at the nearby JFK/UMass stop, they were unhelpful in this case as the man did not use the T. Every available resource is being directed toward solving the case, police said, though the Boston sexual crimes unit deals with over 900 cases annually.

Wednesday’s gathering also covered general safety concerns, including thefts from vehicles, prostitution, and the increased homeless population after the closing of the Long Island shelter. Many attendees expressed feeling grossly underserved by police, reporting slow response times and an uptick in low-level criminal activity in their area.

Questions were raised regarding the most appropriate and effective way to report both crimes in progress and potential criminal behavior. Calling 911 is the best course of action, O’Rourke said.

While there are “breakdowns” in the efficiency of a system which relies on civilian dispatchers correctly prioritizing calls — “you are not speaking directly with a police officer, Gross explained — police said it remains the best system currently in place to deal with emergencies.

There will be expanded coverage of the meeting in next Thursday’s edition of the Reporter.