fb-pixel Skip to main content

Suffolk sheriff demands meeting with mayor and law enforcement to review safety outside jail

A panhandler along a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue nicknamed the "Methadone Mile" in Boston.
A panhandler along a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue nicknamed the "Methadone Mile" in Boston.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff 2016/Globe Staff

A day after a deputy sheriff was attacked on his way to work at a Boston jail, Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins called for an emergency meeting with city officials, saying the situation along “Methadone Mile” had become untenable.

“The health and safety of our officers, staff and guests coming to the House of Correction is clearly in jeopardy, as is that of the other visitors to the area,” Tompkins said in a statement. “In truth, it has been for some time.”

The attack underscored the problems caused by the high concentration of homeless people and people in the throes of drug addiction near the busy intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.


A spokeswoman for Mayor Martin Walsh said Friday he would welcome a conversation with Tompkins, saying that helping people in recovery has been one of his priorities “since day one.”

“The mayor continues to prioritize how to help those suffering from addiction in every corner of our city, and he welcomes a conversation with the sheriff and anyone else who wants to join him in this effort moving forward,” spokeswoman Samantha Ormsby said in a statement.

Walsh’s office said “all parties fully understand the challenges of the area and how it is highly transited due to the concentration of shelter and recovery services, including a major hospital, and the HOC.”

On Thursday, Walsh said his administration has already increased the police presence in the neighborhood and that he has tapped a special adviser to manage services provided in the area. A police deputy superintendent has been also assigned with focusing on the neighborhood.

Just before 7:30 a.m., the deputy sheriff was hit multiple times with a metal pipe by a group of five people on Atkinson Street. The victim told police that one assailant had “yelled out to him” as he drove down the street, so he rolled down his window. A man then approached him and struck him in the face “with an open fist,” police said.


The victim got out of the car and a fight ensued, according to police. During the brawl, one suspect took the officer’s watch, glasses, and phone and tried unsuccessfully to take his wallet, authorities said.

Police charged Torre Jenkins, 45, on a charge of breaking and entering into a motor vehicle. Jenkins, who was wanted on arrest warrants, was arraigned Friday in Roxbury Municipal Court and ordered held on $750 bail.

On Friday, police arrested a second man, Sean Stuart, 51, of Boston and charged him with assault and battery.

“Unfortunately this is not the first incident involving one of our members outside of our facility,” said Jonathan Corey, president of the correctional officers’ union. “Our local is outraged that the mecca of crime within the city of Boston has been brought to our front door with disregard for anyone’s safety.”

The area has become a “haven for crime, clearly without recourse, and is based off neglect from this city,” he said.

The injured deputy sheriff has been released from Boston Medical Center.

Janett Colombo, manager of the New Market Pizza & Grill near the jail, said Friday she “would love to have more people coming in” to her restaurant, but she does a lot of delivery service because people don’t want to walk in the area.


“I hope they find a solution for this situation, because this is not good for any of us here,” she said.

On Thursday night, police arrested 18 people with connections to Atkinson Street on a variety of charges. Several had outstanding warrants including two Level 3 sex offenders who are now charged with failing to register, according to police and state records.

In a statement Friday, Police Commissioner William Gross said he looks forward to working with officials to “address the importance of mental health, addiction, and homelessness.”

On Friday, dozens of people wandered along the streets in the area, some shooting drugs into their arms in broad daylight. Panhandlers weaved in and out of traffic, and one man sat on the street in visible pain as blood pooled on his forearm. Two people by his side helped him wipe it up and assured him he would be OK.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Aidan Ryan can be reached at aidan.ryan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AidanRyanNH.