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Local officials hold forum to discuss JP muggings

Jeremy C. Fox | 2/24/2010, 4:13 a.m.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral and City Councillor John M. Tobin Jr. spoke at a meeting in Jamaica Plain on Feb. 16 to discuss the recent spate of muggings in the area. Jeremy C. Fox

Following a series of muggings near Orange Line MBTA stops in Jamaica Plain, local law enforcement and elected officials met with neighborhood residents at the Nate Smith House on Lamartine Street last week to discuss the extra efforts made by local police and the ways pedestrians could make themselves safer.

The muggings came in a steady stream starting around September 2009 — when five people were robbed between 6:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on a single Tuesday night — through the end of last year, mostly around the Stony Brook T stop. So far they have declined this year, though it’s difficult to know whether that’s due to increased police patrols in the area, the winter weather or another factor.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, who led the meeting along with officers from the District 13 police station, which serves Jamaica Plain, said his department was “very actively working on some important cases” and in recent weeks “the detectives here have made some significant arrests.”

But Davis and others cautioned that residents must remain vigilant. State Rep. Elizabeth A. Malia, whose district includes parts of Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Roxbury and Dorchester, said that the concerns aroused by the robberies presented an opportunity for neighbors to connect and work together.

“If you haven’t been involved in your community before,” she said, “if you haven’t connected to the monthly police meeting, and you don’t know who your next-door neighbors are, and you haven’t thought about some of these issues, this [meeting] is the best thing we could possibly be doing right now.”

Malia encouraged residents to join a neighborhood crime watch or start one if there wasn’t one already.

Sgt. Eric Krause, the community service officer for District 13, said that police in Jamaica Plain had arrested 24 people on robbery charges since November, mostly young people in their teens or early 20’s, usually working in groups of two or more.

Krause said the thieves take “cell phones, cash, electronics, jewelry,” often watching people as they leave the T station to see if they’re talking on the phone or listening to music.

District 13 commander Capt. John Greland said in several cases the victims were unable to identify the robbers because they were distracted by their cell phones and iPods.

“The person has the headphones on and they’re walking and they’re listening to their music and their mind is a million miles away,” Greland said. “[The thieves] come up, they grab it, and they’re gone, and [the victim] can’t give us a description. And unfortunately they take the cellphone and we don’t get a call from the victim until they get home.”

Greland said it’s rare for police to find the same thieves behind more than one robbery — that instead these quick-grab robberies have become a fad for many teens. Davis explained that “these young kids really don’t understand the significance of what they’re doing. They get together with other kids from school … and it’s sort of a lark that they do this.”