The Boston Police Department has all hands on deck to help the city bounce back after a series of record-breaking snowstorms.
Officers from the drug control and gang units are helping direct rush-hour traffic on some of the city’s most clogged arteries, including Summer and Congress streets along Atlantic Avenue, and Cambridge and Staniford streets.
“One day they’re directing traffic, the next day they’re doing search warrants in Dorchester,” said Deputy Superintendent Norma Ayala Leong in the Bureau of Investigative Services, which oversees the drug unit. “My guys do investigative work, search warrants and a lot of that has to be put off. You never know with this job what you will do from one moment to the next.”
Officers from the drug control and gang units were called in to aid with traffic late last month when the first blizzard buried the city in 2 feet of snow. Those officers have been assisting at busy intersections during their regular shifts, mostly during the week, and remain there until the traffic eases, Ayala Leong said.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday on Atlantic Avenue near Congress Street, a driver tried in vain to beat a red light, but wound up stuck in the middle of the intersection. A police officer at the scene asked the driver to back into the lane to allow traffic to pass.
“It’s chaotic out here,” said an officer directing traffic a few blocks from South Station, who works for the department’s gang unit, but declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak.
“See, like that right there,” he said as a car whizzed past him, disregarding his hand signals. “At times like this we have to try to do it all and try to make it all work.”
Traffic on some of the city’s main roadways ground to a halt in recent weeks following the storms. Trips that typically take no more than 20 minutes have become hours-long nightmarish rides, sometimes causing tempers to flare.
“It’s been pretty frustrating, but also dangerous,” said Courtney Joyce, who drove from Quincy to South Station, where she and her 11-year-old daughter, Brianna, sold Girl Scouts cookies Thursday. “We’re not able to see around the snowbanks, there’s narrower streets, people trying to pass, drivers are getting frustrated, people walking in the streets and we’re trying to go around them. . . . Any police force out there trying to help, I think is fine.”
Dorchester resident Steve Scott said he has tried to avoid driving in the city lately because it has been such a headache. Scott, 42, was in South Station Thursday to catch the T to a car rental company, after his car was rear-ended.
“It’s terrible. You don’t want to be out there,” he said. “Two lanes is one lane, three lanes is two lanes, and some lanes are no lanes. . . . It’s crazy.”
While having extra officers on the scene has the added advantage of helping to keep the peace as well as alleviate road congestion, Scott says police should be doing more.
“If they’re going to be out there directing traffic, you might as well put a shovel in their hand and let them shovel snow,” he said. “They should be shoveling snow instead of directing traffic. If they shovel the snow out of here, it’s better traffic, right?”
City police officers have been assisting the Fire Department with digging out hydrants.
Police officers also have helped clear streets of cars for snow removal, helped the elderly navigate around towering snowbanks, and provided transportation to doctors and nurses who otherwise could not get to work during the storms. Last Sunday, they gave about 150 such rides.
Community Service officers, among other police officers, have been summoned to assist as well.
“We’re all in this together,” Police Commissioner William Evans said at a news conference last week. “We’ll continue to help in anyway.”
A Globe photographer took a picture Wednesday of a police officer, who stopped a brown sport utility vehicle on Blue Hill Avenue with piles of snow on its roof. When the officer saw that the driver was elderly, he cleared off the roof.
Although historic snow amounts called for officers to take on additional duties, police still managed to crack down on some of Boston’s bad guys while keeping intersections clear.
Neighborhood Drug Control Unit officers arrested an alleged drug dealer near the Franklin Field housing development in Dorchester on Wednesday. Leslie Washington, 41, faces several charges, including possession with intent to distribute.
On Tuesday, officers from the City Wide Drug Control Unit arrested two men in a drug deal in Charlestown and recovered 17 bags of heroin and a loaded pistol from one of the men.
The city’s overall rate of major crime continued to drop, decreasing by 37 percent between Jan. 1 and Thursday compared with the same time last year, said a police spokeswoman, Officer Rachel McGuire.
In spite of the snow duties, she said, “We’re still working around the clock.”