A group of Boston elected officials are calling for a “city-wide warrant sweep” of people accused of trafficking drugs, guns and other human beings as they say the crisis at Mass and Cass continues to ripple outward.
“This public health and safety crisis requires urgent action to both help those who suffer from substance use disorder and preserve quality of life in our communities,” a cadre of South Boston and Dorchester-area elected officials wrote in a signed letter to local enforcement agencies.
The signees included U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, state Sen. Nick Collins, state Rep. David Biele, City Council President Ed Flynn and City Councilors Frank Baker, Michael Flaherty and Erin Murphy. Lynch, Collins, Biele, Flynn and Flaherty are of South Boston, and Baker and Murphy come from Dorchester.
They continued, “It is for these reasons, we write to support and request a city-wide warrant sweep so that any and all outstanding warrants be executed prioritizing those individuals with a history of violence or human-, gun-, and drug-trafficking.”
A state police spokesman said the state agency is “in receipt of the letter and Colonel Mason is discussing it with the Public Safety Secretary and our partners at Boston Police and the Transit Police.”
The officials in the letter dated this week specifically pointed out Andrew Square, a busy confluence of streets between Dorchester, South Boston and the South End — and a straight shot less than a mile down Southampton Street from the troubled Mass and Cass area where an open-air drug market continues to thrive.
“Simply put, the conditions in and around Andrew Square, in our public housing communities, parks, and along Southampton Street are dangerous, inhumane, and unacceptable,” the pols wrote following a community meeting last week that came after a shooting near Andrew Station.
Baker, a district councilor who represents part of the square, sharing it with Flynn, said that while Andrew Square has had some issues for years, conditions are worsening as the problems at Mass and Cass continue and people continue to be able to buy and shoot up out in the open.
“It’s like a block party out on on the streets all day every day, except instead of hot dogs and hamburgers, it’s fentanyl and meth,” Baker said of Mass and Cass.
He said the problems there of people doing and selling drugs are radiating into the encircling areas including Andrew and Edward Everett Square.
“A warrant sweep is a good way to clam things down,” he continued, especially if it gets people into diversionary programs.
The letter says, “In addition to executing outstanding warrants, we ask that you use your authorities under Section 35 of Chapter 123 of the Massachusetts General Laws to intervene with those suffering from mental health and substance abuse with a likelihood of serious harm to themselves or others.”
That law “permits the courts to involuntarily commit someone who has an alcohol or substance use disorder and there is a likelihood of serious harm as a result of his/her alcohol or substance use,” according to the state Bureau of Substance Addiction Services.
Opioid-related deaths have been steadily increasing for a decade, when the number of confirmed opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts jumped from 733 in 2012 — the first year in the 700s — to 954 the following year, a loss of 221 more people, according to data from the American Medical Association.
In 2014, the number climbed to more than 1,000 and surpassed 2,000 deaths a year in 2016, and has stayed higher than 2,000 deaths ever since, with an estimated 2,290 deaths in 2021 alone from the opioid scourge.
The Greater Boston area has not fared well since opioids have seized control of the drug market. Middlesex County has fared the worst, according to state data, with opioids killing 3,140 people from 2010 to 2021.
Bristol, Worcester, Essex and Suffolk counties — home to Boston and Mass and Cass — all saw more than 2,000 deaths in the same period.
Earlier this month, the state announced 2021 saw an 8.8% increase in opioid overdose deaths than the year before.
Almost daily, the U.S. Attorney’s office reports of another arrest or conviction of heroin and fentanyl trafficking across the state, with two Worcester men — Cintia Franco, 34, and Amauris “Animal” Antonio Rosario Garcia, 39 — being the latest to plead guilty to a major trafficking operation on Friday.
Flaherty, who’s the council’s public-safety chair, said the elected officials “are asking the police agencies to work in conjunction with the DA’s office and the probation department to target and apprehend those individuals who are presently on default warrant status for crimes of violence, firearms and drug trafficking cases. We are hopeful that this effort will lead to the bad actors being taken off the street so that we can reduce crime and violence throughout all of our neighborhoods this summer.”
Murphy, the public health chair, said there “has to be a balance” with law enforcement and recovery initiatives.
“I’m hoping to see a positive outcome from it that we can make a statement that if you need help, you can get help,” Murphy told the Herald, “but if you’re breaking the law and preying on people, there will be consequences.”
— Joe Dwinell contributed to this report