Boston police responded to more than 200 calls for loud parties in September just in the district covering South Boston, said City Councilor Ed Flynn on Wednesday.
Flynn — a Southie resident whose district includes parts of the neighborhood as well as sections of the South End, Beacon Hill, and Chinatown — has filed an order for a City Council hearing next week on house parties, citing BPD data showing loud party calls in District C-6 jumped from 31 in July 2019 to 90 in July 2020; 39 in August 2019 to 181 in August 2020; and 46 in September 2019 to 238 in September 2020.
Meanwhile city residents continue to report loud parties in South Boston and elsewhere in the city to the online 311 database. One irate resident days ago flagged “[a]nother weekend, another loud annoying party” on Winfield Street. “I’m hoping someone else here will call the police as well.”
The hearing order that Flynn filed with the council calls for a hearing next week to “discuss ways to better enforce rules regarding house parties and indoor gatherings.”
Flynn said via e-mail Wednesday that constituents have “contacted my office with concerns about these large house parties and gatherings becoming super-spreader events in the age of COVID-19, as well as the noise, trash removal and quality of life issues they present for neighbors, families, our seniors and persons with disabilities.”
Last week on Zoom, Flynn said, he met with about 90 neighbors and police and inspectional services officials to encourage residents to call 911 to report parties, and also to ask city officials to check whether certain locations are on the city’s Problem Properties List.
“With our restaurants and bars operating at limited capacity due to the public health concerns, and as temperatures begin to drop as we enter the winter months, it is critical that the City of Boston discusses ways to prevent this behavior which could potentially lead to super-spreader events and a spike in COVID-19 cases locally,” Flynn said in his email message.
Here’s a smattering of some recent parties called in by angry residents to the 311 database over the past several days; records indicate the cases have been deemed “closed,” with instructions to contact police rather than 311 if the problem arises in the future.
One bash was recently called in on M St.; during that event, some guests had apparently indulged in a little day drinking.
“Loud party on first floor at 159 M street,” a neighbor reported. “This has been going on since 3 pm.”
And things were hopping at another recent gathering at a Southie address converted into an Airbnb.
“Loud party with outdoor music at the AirBnB party house located at 60 P Street,” a neighbor wrote. “Keeping whole neighborhood up.”
Ditto for a residence located at K and E. Third streets in South Boston.
“Loud party has been going on for hours and is not following Covid guidance,” a constituent complained.
The revelers have caught the attention of city officials, who aren’t pleased.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh said during a recent news conference that the city has seen seen “an increase in house parties,” and he urged people not to host or attend them.
Addressing college students directly, Walsh said, “You want to be treated as adults? Well then act [like] it.”
“You wanted to go to school here because your college is one of the greatest in the country,” Walsh continued. “Then we’re asking you to be responsible.”
Walsh reiterated that message in a statement released by his office.
“Hosting a party during a pandemic is a danger to yourself, your neighborhood, and your community, period,” Walsh said. "We are fighting to contain a deadly virus that has already taken thousands of lives throughout our Commonwealth, and we’re asking everyone in Boston to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
His words were echoed Wednesday morning via Twitter by City Councilor Ed Flynn.
“Parties & large gatherings are contributing to the increase in COViD-19 cases,” Flynn tweeted. “We discussed the seriousness of this public health problem w/ concerned residents, city officials. Please call @bostonpolice 911, email email@example.com problem property investigation.”
One man who responded to the councilor via Twitter suggested the noise was more worrisome than any public health risks.
“[W]e don’t care about the pandemic, we care about THE LOUD [EXPLETIVE] MUSIC AND SCREAMING UNTIL 4am!!!,” he tweeted to Flynn. “Start issuing legitimate fines to landlords. Find out what they charge for rent and make the fine for loud parties double that amount. These parties will stop quickly.”
On Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker said informal gatherings are fueling new cases of the virus, telling reporters “the single biggest issue that’s driving case growth is familiar people being familiar with each other,” and that people in their 20s and 30s are seeing an uptick in infections.
“We’re not even necessarily talking about college kids,” Baker said, chiding young people who are college graduates and living together in close quarters in apartments. They’re not physically distancing at events like rooftop gatherings, Baker said, “and they’re passing the virus around.”
In Boston, the problem’s hardly limited to Southie, according to the tally of recent 311 reports.
“Large party at 25 Bellevue St.” in Dorchester, one resident wrote. “No mask no social distancing. Do these people realize that we have a Covid spike?”
Or take Foster Street in Brighton, where someone reported a large party involving college students, whom the neighbor said were “circulating in and out of house without face masks." The neighbor feared that the “troublesome house” of guests is “certain to be the source of a super spreader event.”
And on Marion Street in East Boston, someone reported a “Loud party across the street.”
In Southie, elected officials have been sounding the alarm on parties for several weeks. A letter to neighbors dated Aug. 31 and signed by Flynn and Congressman Stephen Lynch, State Senator Nick Collins, Councilor-at-Large Michael Flaherty and State Representative David Biele said the lawmakers were working on the problem.
“The South Boston elected officials have also discussed these issues with city officials, as well as steps that have been taken to engage landlords on COVID-19 policies and the role of the relevant city departments in enforcement,” said the letter, which Flynn forwarded to the Globe on Wednesday. “We talk to Captain Boyle from the Boston Police Department (C-6) several times a week about these large house parties in our community.”
Boston police, the letter continued, “are doing their best while responding to a number of complex public safety and public health challenges across our city and District 2. We have forwarded many of these issues and addresses to Captain Boyle and C-6. During this crisis, he has advised us to continue to notify residents to call 911 to break up these parties. It is critical that we call 911 so that BPD can respond and that these complaints are logged appropriately.”
The letter said the city’s Inspectional Services Department, or ISD, will “investigate to the extent possible to enforce indoor gathering limits both in businesses and residences. In addition to calling 911 to immediately address situations involving house parties, emails can be sent to ISD@boston.gov or 311 to notify ISD of any indoor gatherings that exceed COVID regulations on gatherings.”
The lawmakers encouraged their neighbors in the letter to “please call 911 for future incidents.”
Gatherings are potentially dangerous in the COVID-19 era, according to the CDC.
“The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and COVID-19 spreading,” the CDC online guidelines state.
The guidelines continue, “The higher the level of community transmission in the area that the gathering is being held, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spreading during a gathering.”
The CDC classifies certain types of gatherings as higher risk and highest risk.
The higher-risk gatherings include “Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area,” the CDC website says.
The site described highest-risk gatherings as “Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.”