Metro

South End residents want greater police presence

More than 100 people attended a public safety meeting in Boston’s South End on Wednesday night, pleading for a heightened police presence and better services for at-risk youth after a spate of recent shootings that left one man dead.

Residents who attended the meeting at the United South End Settlements building on Rutland Street also asked city officials to hire more street workers to mediate gang conflicts and help prevent violence.

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“They get burned out,” a woman who identified herself only as a nurse at Boston Medical Center said of the street workers. “They need more training.”

Daniel Mulhern, director of Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s public safety initiatives, said the city currently employs 45 street workers and is seeking ways to beef up the ranks.

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“It’s a huge priority for the mayor,” Mulhern said. “They’re invaluable to the city.”

The urgency of the meeting was underscored roughly two hours after it ended, as a man was shot in the neighborhood near Massachusetts Avenue and Washington Street. He was taken to Boston Medical Center with injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.

One resident who identified himself only as Jay said his home was recently broken into and that his car window was smashed. He said residents have asked police for more bike patrols and surveillance cameras, and have requested that more officers be assigned to the neighborhood when they finish their academy training.

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“We’re seeing people afraid to go out on the streets,” he said.

Boston police Commissioner William B. Evans said many violent crimes are down in the neighborhood and insisted that the area has improved dramatically in recent years, while conceding that “we’re up on the gunshots.”

“It’s not like things are spiraling out of control,” he said.

Regarding cameras, Boston police Captain Paul Ivens said the city plans to place more of them in the Villa Victoria housing development, a neighborhood complex where Wellington Ruiz, 25, was fatally shot on Dec. 9.

The slaying of Ruiz, of Dorchester, was one of four shootings in the neighborhood that occurred during a weeklong period earlier this month, prompting Wednesday’s meeting.

The other shootings were not fatal. No arrests have been made in the killing of Ruiz, who had a criminal record that included a federal drug conviction.

Evans said during the meeting that Ruiz was targeted in the attack on Dec. 9, and he urged the public to contact police with any information about the case.

Ruiz “was well-known to us,” Evans said. “He was in the area for a reason, and unfortunately he got shot.”

Evans did not elaborate on the reason that Ruiz was in the neighborhood when he was shot.

“We’re working tirelessly, obviously, on all our homicides” including Ruiz’s slaying, Evans said.

He also said homicides are down this year in the city, with 36 at present compared to 52 at this time in 2014.

Residents at the meeting also requested more police bike patrol units for the area and job opportunities for local youth.

Police officials said bike patrol officers are deployed in hot spots throughout the city, and authorities touted the Walsh administration’s job training programs for young people.

But one meeting attendee, Mary Franklin, who said her husband was killed in 1996, said city officials could do more to help poor communities throughout Boston.

“It’s the parents that need help,” Franklin said. “The parents that need resources.”

Police also addressed the issue of drug abuse, which authorities said can exacerbate violent crime.

Boston police Superintendent-in-Chief William G. Gross urged meeting attendees to “let us know” if they see drug deals occurring or “someone who needs help.”

“We need your help too,” said Gross, who also lamented what he said were low bail amounts set by judges for violent offenders who often return to the street soon after their arrests.

But some residents complained that police do not always respond when they call 911.

Superintendent Bernie O’Rourke urged residents to call the city’s 311 hotline when they are unsatisfied with the police response.

“We will follow up as to what exactly occurred with that call,” he said.

Police also said a peace march will be held in the neighborhood on Thursday, with participants gathering in front of St. Stephen’s church on Shawmut Avenue at 5 p.m.

Globe Correspondent Lauren Fox contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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