T opens police substation at Dudley
New security at bus depot is response to slayings
By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff | May 11, 2004
In the middle of Platform C in Roxbury's Dudley Station yesterday sat a trailer, its windows covered in chicken wire, that will serve as the MBTA's first transit police substation, the agency's answer to a spate of violence that for many has made this station's name synonymous with crime.
The events that led officials to open the substation -- a random daytime shooting Nov. 5 that injured four and killed 52-year-old Charles Johnson, and the stabbing death of 15-year-old Shawn Adams on Feb. 14 -- were still fresh in the minds of many riders yesterday as Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority police patrols were brought permanently closer to the riding public at Boston's busiest bus depot.
The increased police presence is also designed to assure community leaders that the area is safe for business as the state considers relocating 1,000 state workers nearby, MBTA officials said.
The station will be staffed with two full-time officers using a new video surveillance system that can record activities around the outdoor hub. A $100,000 federal housing grant will also allow an MBTA sergeant and two additional officers to patrol the station and abutting streets. Though the grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development runs out at the end of the year, T police will remain at the station, according to MBTA Police Chief Joseph C. Carter.
"They're not running from the problem, they're running to the problem," Don Muhammad, a minister with the Nation of Islam, said of the T's efforts at the station's dedication ceremony. "But they're not coming in like Gestapo. They are coming in because they see this community as a community deserving of protection."
The MBTA Police Department was headquartered at Dudley Square until 1979, according to the agency's general manager, Michael H. Mulhern. The substation will allow officers to remain there 20 hours a day, seven days a week, one of the few stations in the system with a dedicated police presence, he said. Officers will be away only in the early morning hours, when the buses are not running.
Despite promises by officials to make the station safer, riders sitting on the station's metal benches were not expecting miracles.
The problems with Dudley, many said, stemmed from larger issues such as cuts in after-school programs and poverty, combining at this historic outdoor hub under its famous copper cupolas. When you add in Dudley's role as a mixing point for students citywide, they said, the depot becomes a place for settling petty beefs with knives or fists.
"Just because there's a police station across the street doesn't make you safer," said Shawnette Edge, pointing toward a Boston Police precinct across the street. "And just because there's a little police booth over there doesn't make you safer."
James Banks, 68, of Dorchester, was waiting for a bus to Boston Medical Center as he leaned against a pole, held tight to his crutches, and remembered the 50 years he's been traveling through the station.
"It's worse than it was over the years," he said of crime today. Banks recalled when the bus depot was surrounded by a maze of stores. The station then, he said, was simply a transit way -- not a place to hang out, as many young riders, drunks, and others do today. "People don't have nowhere to go, it seems," he said.
Veronica Dornan, 29, of Roxbury, said there is a "gaping hole" when it comes to police presence at night. With the substation in place, she expects to see more police at night, but she said she wasn't sure for how long.
"It's very reactionary when Dudley is in the news," she said. "You'll see a lot of action in the coming weeks, and then it dies down. I'd just actually like to see it continue."
The civic leaders who turned out for the dedication of the police substation were aware that the problem was complex. Joyce Stanley, executive director of the Dudley Square Main Streets program, said that in years past, she would hang out at the local pizza parlor next to the bus depot after school every day. She hoped the substation would allow today's children to have similar memories without the fear of violence.
To bolster this, Stanley and other local leaders will hold a summit for parents and schoolchildren in the coming months to "work out issues that are bothering the kids before summer starts."
"Everybody that comes into this station we want to see get out of this station alive," said Muhammad, "and we have an awful lot to be thankful for because a few years ago, I would not have been able to make that statement."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.