The menace on Savin Hill Avenue

Several levels of city government have swung into action this week to confront a “problem property” on Savin Hill Avenue that has become a real menace in recent years, according to neighbors and police reports. City officials have not yet opted to fine the property’s owner for his role in creating the nuisance— something they could do under a new city ordinance passed earlier this year. Instead, they are using their leverage and experience to compel the owner, My Lan Nguyen, to evict the tenants who are responsible for the trouble at 47-49 Savin Hill Ave. And all landlords, civic leaders, politicians and the courts should keep careful track of what happens next to make sure the system works as promised.

The roots of this story go back to last spring when a 19-year-old Savin Hill man was slain in broad daylight on the MBTA platform at Savin Hill station during a dispute with another young man. The search for the shooter quickly focused on the six-family blue house two blocks away that neighbors have long zeroed in on as a source of trouble locally. (It turned out that the gunman wasn’t connected to the house.) Police records show several calls to the address over the last few years for an assault, a drug arrest, warrants, and other petty crimes.

In June, as the Menino administration and the City Council prepared new regulations to focus on chronically-troubled properties like this one, Mr. Nguyen sat down with Maureen Feeney, the then-city councillor, Jay Walsh of the Mayor’s Office, and Boston Police Captain Richard Sexton. Walsh recalls that the message of the meeting was clear: The city wanted and excepted Nguyen’s cooperation in controlling his property and tenants.

Last Friday, a brawl erupted outside the three-decker and at least three of the 20 or so combatants identified by Boston cops turned out to be residents of 49 Savin Hill Ave. This incident has brought concerns in the broader Savin Hill community — already besieged by a series of armed street robberies —to a tipping point. Boston Police quickly received assurances from Nguyen that he would evict the occupants of his property who were arrested on Friday, but as some in Savin Hill have rightly pointed out on social media sites, this is far from the end of the story.

Nguyen’s property remains a shabby, high-profile outpost on an otherwise nice street. City inspectors were out in force on Wednesday to look for violations and if they are found, Nguyen needs to move swiftly to put his house in order. And they should look with careful scrutiny at Nguyen’s other four properties in Dorchester and Mattapan.

Then there is the question of whether the city’s Housing Court will take appropriate action to evict the current bad tenants. The full resources of the city and state should be brought to bear on this proceeding to make sure the eviction process is fair, but firm and swift.

The city’s Problem Property task force, which Mayor Menino’s top lieutenants direct, holds great promise in tackling site specific problems like this one. The work that Jay Walsh and his colleagues did months ago facilitated the action that Nguyen was compelled to take this week. The whole idea of the task force— in its latest incarnation— originated with this house at 47-49 Savin Hill Ave. It’s important now that the city and other authorities follow this case through to its conclusion, broom out those who are running down this neighborhood, and take that model to the next house of ill repute.

-Bill Forry



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